Somehow, his feet moved.
Left. Right. Left. Right.
As if walking were actually an involuntary reflex propelling him forward.
Had he remembered the napkin? He always wrote on napkins, why was that?
Pat the coat pocket. Pat the back pocket. Dig in the pants pocket.
But here he was, feet now lead, sinking into the floor, threatening to take his knees along with for the ride. And people were watching. Trickles of anger pricked at his nose and throat. Familiar heat pushed into his cheeks.
How could she…
But no, he was done being angry. He had played that part already, The Angry Father. He had played it and aced every scene and every act until the people he loved started turning away, unwilling to be his audience. He had played it until he had looked at her body. Until, in the face of her nakedness, the hurt behind the anger had burned through the fog and left him staring into the new abyss that had taken up residence in his heart. Without permission. Violating the order of things.
It was there in the coroner’s office that he had relived his last conversation with her, staring at her unmoving lips but hearing her voice clear as day.
“I’m going out to a party tonight Dad. I need to ask you something.”
“Sure honey, shoot.”
“I’m probably going to drink. I’d like permission to call you to give me a ride home if I drink.”
No no no…
“No. Don’t drink, you know better than that. And don’t be late for curfew.”
“Ok Dad. Bye.”
He’d been watching football. He hadn’t said goodbye. It was tee time.
And the people were still waiting. Waiting for him to say something about her. Waiting for him to say how beautiful and smart she had been. How much he would miss her. How he’d been so proud. How she would have been so picky about the music for this service.
He hoped he had picked the right songs for her, but he knew he’d probably got it wrong. He hadn’t gone to her latest concerts – it just wasn’t his type of music.
The heat in his face was now joined by a copper taste in the back of his throat. The room wavered.
Pain in his left hand startled him and steadied the room. He looked at it. Of course. He’d been holding the napkin tight in that hand the whole time.
He cleared his throat. At least he had the napkin. Winging this was not an option. She deserved better than that. She deserves better than a napkin.
He uncrumpled the fragile white square, readying himself. Only, it wasn’t the right napkin.
It wasn’t the napkin on which he had scribbled his daughter’s eulogy while drinking Sambuca, as if drinking something swank made the drinking less distasteful, less wrong in the face of the present circumstances.
It was the napkin on which he’d sketched her tombstone.
The napkin on which he’d painstakingly wrote again and again, until the napkin tore under the onslaught, her epitaph.
Margaret Jane Little
This fiction piece was brought to you by Red Writing Hood at Write on Edge. The prompt requested a piece about an epitaph. This piece was also inspired by a true-life event (which luckily had a different ending) and Lance’s post The Talk.