Young Amelia’s on a Greyhound. Looking out the window and seeing nothing.
The bus gets emptier and emptier and it passes through manicured Northern Massachusetts…
Through smoky industrial founding father type towns…
Through others dank, lifelife, unidentified by droopy signs…
Through coastal areas helmed in by fog…
Through Narragansett, Rhode Island…
And finally…Amelia’s hometown, Millerstown.
The Millerstown of fifteen years past is a healthy working class, fishing mill community. Amelia drags her hand me down suitcase off the bus. The Millerstown Café and Sundries store demands a once over. Hmmm. A “Closed” sign is in the window.
She looks towards the docks. A few catch-the-dawn fisherman stand planted to the wood railing, their lines adrift in the waves 30 feet below. Some look as if they’d like to be with their bait six feet under. She starts to trudge down a lane, past five newly-planted elm trees. At the end sits a small split-level, Cape Cod style home.
Despite the newly-birthed trees, the home feels like death has taken up residence.
“Hey, it’s sis!”
The entrance of her brother, Cleveland, sweeps Amelia back from her teens, back to the present. The 17-year-old swings into the room. He’s slim, energetic, good-looking in a casual, unconscious way. Even in the plaid robe and bare feet he now sports, he’s teenage hip.
They hug. This time, it’s genuine on both sides.
“Cleveland, your feet’ll get cold,” interrupts Ruby, jealous of their friendship.
Cleveland waves off the comment. Turns back to Amelia.
“Shoulda’ known you’d show up? Always doing the right thing?”
Cleveland has a habit of ending every sentence like it’s a question. It sends Amelia into a playful mode.
“You look good. Must have some young hussy looking out for you,” she teases.
“Always, always, When’d you get here?” asks Cleveland.
“I planned for midnight. Just a lot of delays. Fog. Finally flew into Providence around four this morning.”
Ruby’s less than not interested. “I got to get to the store. You want anything to eat, Cleveland? I can make something before I leave.”
“You can make something for me,” says Amelia.
“You’re a grown woman. You can take care of yourself.”
It was always like this with Ruby. Not only didn’t she understand affection. Not only would she never be able to give it, accept it or fake it in this lifetime or the next. But, the site of it between others seemed like such a threat to the essential nature of her being, that she went out of her way to try to stifle affection in others.
h wait, she did seem to warm to it in her “stories”, the ones that repeat forever on TVLand. Maybe she accepted what she knew she could never control. Or perhaps because that was the past. That was then. This is too much of now.
Amelia opens the top of Cleveland’s robe a smidge. Picks at the hair on his chest.
“As if this ain’t grown man hair growing up under here,” retorts Amelia. And to herself. “Not again. I’m going to enjoy seeing my baby brother. Not even my mom’s gonna kill this moment.”
Cleveland starts picking at the hair on her head. Soon, they’re both slap-boxing playfully.
“Don’t rough house in my kitchen,” admonishes Ruby. Cleveland gives in with a wry smile and a gesture of hopelessness. Hopelessness? Another house characteristic.
“Ok, it’s starting,” says Cleveland. “Going to get dressed?”
“I’ll be here, least till Daddy’s funeral,” says Amelia.
That casts Cleveland into a kind of coma-recovery mode. For her brother, that happened all too frequently, she was soon to discovery. His eyes take on a far away aura. And pretty soon, it’s like only his body is in the room. Spirit? Essence?
A search through the entire Thomas Brothers wouldn’t fine them.
Usually when this happened, those around him would start to fidget in discomfort.
Gradually, they’d drift off one by one, concerned that they would think ill of him, but not finding any other choice. What they didn’t know was that when Cleveland emerged from these surprise attacks, he had no idea where he was or who he was talking to.
Cleveland never questioned the source of location of his reverie.
All he knew was that even though the thought of his father might have initiated these episodes, his father was not in them. As far as Cleveland knew. For not only did he have no memory of those he spoke to before the attack. He had no memory of what happened during those attacks.
But, except for the faint inhibition within the pit of his stomach, Cleveland suffered no ill effects. And after watching his dad shrivel up and die after two years, Cleveland felt a slight discomfort was nothing.
No one knew what had been wrong with Henry, their father. At least not until his death. The symptons seemed similar to Alzheimer’s. And because that was untreatable, no one looked any further.
Oh yes, doctors recommended cat scans. But, Henry came from a generation in which men didn’t go to hospitals unless they had bullet wounds or their wives were having babies. And maybe not even then. So, a cat scan was not an option. As for Ruby, she came from a generation in which you might undermind and hate your husband, but you certainly didn’t second guess them.
It took dying to finally figure out what had happened to Henry. Being the good husband. Being the good provider. Being the good dad. He died from a disease that a dead beat dad would never have caught.