CW: Death, suicide
Becky punches the address into the car’s navigation system.
"Why are you doing that," I say from the back seat.
Sean is in the front because he shouted dibs, then ran like a child to slap my hand from the car door.
As usual, Becky hums her reply. The hmm an octave higher than the mm. Simply translated, she means, shut the fuck up, it's my car and I'll do what I want. Sean rolls his eyes in some sort of sympathetic gesture. I give him the finger.
Becky is afraid of getting lost. Always has been.
The route home is so familiar that if I close my eyes for half an hour, I can tell where we are by the feel of the road.
Becky feeds the Fleetwood Mac disc into the stereo.
Sean says, "I can’t believe this might be our last trip home" and Becky turns the volume up.
More than an hour into the drive and half way through the second run of Rumours, Becky points her glossy red fingernail at the sign for the next service centre.
"We need to stop now?" I ask.
I hate driving anywhere with her. I hate being with her. If you're ever feeling too good or too happy about anything, Becky's the pin prick to your balloon, the rain to your picnic.
I don't have a car and Sean's truck is full of crappy furniture he's going to someday refinish, so here we are.
When we arrive at the house, Sean and I sit at the dining room table and Becky tells us what to do. Sean will clean the house, tidy up the yard and then he’ll go speak to the neighbours, all of whom will ask when the house is going on the market.
The house is not being sold. Becky wants to sit on it for a year and see what the market does.
We told her, just like we told Mum and Dad after our brother David died, like we told mum after Dad died, selling the house for a dollar is better than hanging on to it for one more minute. Besides the asbestos tile floors, the lead pipes and the leaking water tank, it's a death trap.
We don’t fight.
Becky wasn't there when I found David in the basement.
She doesn't understand how their Dad's choice affected Sean. That feeling you're not a good enough son is different than knowing.
I've been assigned the role of caterer again. I have to make sandwiches from tasteless white and brown bread, throw some grapes, cheddar cheese and veggies on to plates and toss a pasta salad and an iceberg lettuce into a couple of bowls. Becky doesn't want any of my fancy Toronto shit.
"Nobody appreciates Dijon mustard in their egg salad."
"I love it," Sean says.
I'll do as she says because her nerves are shot and she's been drinking coffee and smoking her special cigarettes all morning.
Sean and I giggle through sips of gin and tonic and we can see guests putting empty glasses and plates down, thinking of how they might slip out the back door of what has become The Gorran Family Annual Service of Remembrance.
Becky coughs everyone to attention.
She sings, Don't Stop.
It's the way she emphasizes tomorrow, the way she says, It'll be here. Better than before.
Becky peels the shellac from each and every nail while Sean stares out the window at the tree, scarred and slowly dying from its injuries and I think about burning this house to the ground.
Alison Gadsby is a writer living in Toronto. She graduated from UBC with an MFA in Creative Writing and York University with an HBA in Creative Writing and English. She has also attended a writers’ retreat at the Banff Centre. Her work has won awards and scholarships, both at UBC and at York. She is the founder/curator/host of Junction Reads, a prose reading series in Toronto. She is also facilitator/member of a writers’ workshop where she continues to work on another novel project and the short stories of a ‘swimming’ collection, two of which were published in The Writing Disorder and Coastal Shelf.