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Closing the Books

By Susan MacKay-Logue

 

When all my books are balanced,

And my final ledger’s read,

Please celebrate a life well lived.

Don’t cry because I’m dead.

 

St. Peter’s kept a tally

Up on that Pearly Gate,

And found that I’m not wanting.

My goodwill score is great.

 

My debits I gave freely,

In service to mankind.

My altruistic leanings

Were liberal arts aligned.

 

The talents that I shared,

In efforts to give back.

Were clearly well intended.

So this kept me in the black.

 

The life that I created

With the woman that I love

Was a beautiful adventure

That I cherish from above

 

I was always an accountant.

Precise in every way.

But I worked to live,

And that I did, with gusto every day.

 

I’ve friendships in abundance

And a family that I love.

I’ve travelled o’er this glorious world

With grace from God above.

 

The assets that I treasure

live on in you, my friends.

Family, travel, learning,

And a love that has no end.

 

When I’m reconciling my accounts

And I give my life a look,

I intend to thank the Lord above,

When I finally close the books.

 

“Mo!  You better come here!  Looks like another one.”  My footsteps crunch the pine needles, leaves, and twigs beneath them.  My feet move me forward, but my eyes search behind for my sister as I approach the scene.  I sweat, despite the cool breeze, and my mouth goes dry when the buzz of flies and the smell of decay assault my senses.

“Jesus Christ!  Not again?  Why does this shit keep happening?”  Mo is all business.  She gets things done.  She shakes her head as she approaches the scene, hands on her hips, disgusted.  She’s done with this, but that won’t make it stop.  “This has become an epidemic.  Every single time we come here, we have to deal with this crap. When is enough, enough?”

We stare down at the bloody mess, no longer horrified, but annoyed.   Bones, cartilage, and torn flesh blanket a section of the wood’s floor like that spill that happens when old Chinese tumbles out of your too full fridge and the carton busts open right there on the linoleum.  What a freaking mess.

“What do you think happened, Mo?” Mo is short for Maureen, but I dare anyone to call her that.  My eyes search for answers in the crime scene, darting here and there, trying to make sense of the mess.  I wring my hands a bit, knowing that the clean up isn’t going to be pretty.  It never is.  But we can’t just leave it here.  Someone has to do it, and that someone is us.

I’m the nervous sister.  Not quite timid, but definitely more cautious and far less foul-mouthed than Mo.  She swears like a sailor on shore leave.  Nobody seems to mind.  It kind of suits her.  She’s bright red, I’m a dull yellow.  People call me Kit.  My name is Katherine, so it went from Kat, to Kitty Kat, to Kit.  Dad sometimes calls me Kitten, but he’s the only one that can get away with that.  I’m a little nervous, I’m not a doormat.

“How should I know, Kit? It’s the same every time.  Is it man?  Is it nature?  We don’t know, and we probably never will.  All I know is we better go suit up for disposal before Sonny gets here.  You remember what happened last year.”

I think back to last summer and suppress a grimace.  Sonny found last year’s contribution to the Circle of Life before we did.  He carried that spine around like he was leading the band with it.  Not just part of it, either.  The whole dang thing.  Finally, we wrestled it away from him.  Sonny’s not quite right in the head.  Generally sweet, but trying way too hard to be Alpha.

“I’ll go get a bag and some gloves, Kit.  You stay with the body.  This is some bullshit right here.  Damn it.”  Mo trudged off toward the house leaving me alone with the corpse.

“Bambi sleeps with the fishes,” i muttered to no one in particular.

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A friend suggested some changes and I made them. Always working on that “shitty first draft.”

MacKay-Logue

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“Tommy!  Toss me Richie Rich.  I haven’t read that one.”   I reach my grubby, s’more covered fingers toward the comic, but I am too late.

“Forget it, I’m not done with that stack yet.  Read Little Lotta,” Tommy smirked.  “That’s more your speed anyway,” he said twisting away from me using his back as a barrier against my grubby grab.

Laura flipped over in her sleeping bag, so that she was now facing the top of the tent.  Her mouse brown hair poked out of the top of the bag in an any-which-way it wants, no rules, manner that made me wonder how much of it was hair, and how much was pine tar and dirt. “Will you guys shut up?  I’m trying to read, here.”  Betz moved the flashlight so that she could better see her Hot Stuff comic. She was not about to get dragged into…

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“Tommy!  Toss me Richie Rich.  I haven’t read that one.”   I reach my grubby, s’more covered fingers toward the comic, but I am too late.

“Forget it, I’m not done with that stack yet.  Read Little Lotta,” Tommy smirked.  “That’s more your speed anyway,” he said twisting away from me using his back as a barrier against my grubby grab.

Laura flipped over in her sleeping bag, so that she was now facing the top of the tent.  Her mouse brown hair poked out of the top of the bag in an any-which-way it wants, no rules, manner that made me wonder how much of it was hair, and how much was pine tar and dirt. “Will you guys shut up?  I’m trying to read, here.”  Betz moved the flashlight so that she could better see her Hot Stuff comic. She was not about to get dragged into any bickering, so she kept to herself.  Amy giggled in the corner with a pile of Little Dot and her friends.  Amy didn’t need any of us to have a good time.  Her nickname was Polka Dot, so she thought that all of the Little Dot comics were written about her.  Her wild, curly brown hair, not so much framed her face, as allowed it to exist within it.  Her laughter was contagious, so quiet giggles were appropriate for settling us in for the night.

The scene was a familiar one, each of us head bent over a comic.  It’s what we did in the summer.  There was no TV to watch, and there were only so many times that we could read the same few Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books that were in the shack.  The comic book scene was familiar, though the tent was not.  We had begged our parents to let us spend the night out in front of the cottage in Great-Uncle Mertz’ army tent.  After an unusual amount of begging, we ultimately got the go-ahead and started setting it up.

It took forever to get it up and prepped for our adventure.  I’m not sure what we expected, but when you are 10, and sleeping outdoors with your best friends all night, the world is your oyster.  The adventure came with the rush of independence, the sense that for the next ten hours, we were in charge.  If we wanted to stay up all night and read, no one would be there to stop us, and if Old Man Marker’s ghost decided to pay us a visit…no one would be there to protect us.

The tent was ancient, army green canvas and fit all five of us with room left over to house a tribe of Pygmies.  Once up, its gaping, musty, mouth revealed a coated canvas floor that crinkled as we began staking our claims with sleeping bags and piles of Harvey, DC, and Action Comics.

Dinner had been perch that Grampa ‘Kay had caught that morning with Mertz. It was delicious and pared with a three bean and onion salad that Gramma ‘Kay had made. Yummy as it all was, it would prove to be the potential unraveling of our adventure.

Perspective 1 narrator

He travels with an entourage these days, one in front, and one in back, frequently hangers-on crowd along his side.  His gait is deliberate. People take notice when he enters a room.  They pause from their meal, their conversation, their cocktail and watch as the group passes.

Ahead, the door is held for him, wide and welcoming. Heads turn at a table nearby, all eyes upon him.  People smile, and titter, and make way. Someone standing nearby quickly moves an errant chair out of the way as he heads toward a chosen table.  The table is covered with the bounty of summer.  Bowls of fresh cherries shimmer in the sun, chilled glasses of recently poured IPAs fizz, while giving off a golden glow.

A woman, noticing him at the door, leaves her position at the table and heads over to him.  She moves efficiently, yet gracefully, in his direction.  Her sun-kissed nose and cheeks reflect the flickering light.  Her hair curls softly about her face, the blonde dulled with age, but still lovely.  She smiles comfortably as she approaches, and holds her arm out to him.

“This way, Dad,” she says, as she steers him toward her table.  The entourage peels away like the petals of a banana, leaving the tender fruit exposed.

“Oh, it’s you!  Are you Kathy or are you Sue?” he asks with a good-natured smile.

“It’s me, Dad.  It’s Kathy.”

Perspective 2- Main character

My God, why are all these people hanging around? I’m just trying to get something to eat. Can’t they get out of my way? Look at them all staring. What’re you looking at? You got something to say? Say it!

I can do this myself, you know. I’ve been walking for a very long time. Eating too. I suppose that surprises you. You look and see a feeble old man. You don’t know me. You don’t know my story.

People used to stand up when I walked into the room. They used to show their respect, and hang on my every word. Now, now they hang around waiting for me to fall. They used to look at me with envy, now they look at me with pity. I know people, you know? I’m the man who gets things done. I know people. Now, if I could just remember his name…

Added a bit more. Does it feel like a chapter?

MacKay-Logue

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The road was so dark, that she nearly missed the driveway.  There was no moon and the sky was lightly overcast, giving the woods an eerie shimmer. She drove slowly down the dirt driveway, lowering the windows to listen to the woods.  As the tires crunched a rhythm into the sand and pine needles, Sarah listened to the world outside.  Night critters rustled the leaves of the trees lining the way.  In the next drive, an owl called out a greeting.  The scent of pine and moist leaves filled her nose and her memory.  This driveway had always led to safety, to love, companionship, to family.  There was always a sense of excitement and adventure when Sarah approached the cottage, but tonight it was different.  Tonight was not like any other night at the lake.

She pulled carefully into the sandy drive in front of the back door.  The cottage, dark and…

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IMG_4211

The road was so dark, that she nearly missed the driveway.  There was no moon and the sky was lightly overcast, giving the woods an eerie shimmer. She drove slowly down the dirt driveway, lowering the windows to listen to the woods.  As the tires crunched a rhythm into the sand and pine needles, Sarah listened to the world outside.  Night critters rustled the leaves of the trees lining the way.  In the next drive, an owl called out a greeting.  The scent of pine and moist leaves filled her nose and her memory.  This driveway had always led to safety, to love, companionship, to family.  There was always a sense of excitement and adventure when Sarah approached the cottage, but tonight it was different.  Tonight was not like any other night at the lake.

She pulled carefully into the sandy drive in front of the back door.  The cottage, dark and too quiet, held back its welcome.  Closing the door lightly behind her, Sarah walked around the side of the house toward the front porch, toward the lake.  The lake finally welcomed her, its waves licking the shore in short, repetitive ticks.  She crossed the front yard to the steps of the dock and followed them down to the shore.  She was part of the darkness, now, part of the sand and pine and water.

Sarah sat down on the steps and hugged her knees.  Her blonde hair, hastily pulled into a messy ponytail, had no moonlight to reflect it’s golden hues.  She shivered slightly in her light sweater as she looked out onto the dark of the lake. Eventually, she would have to unpack the car. Eventually, she would have to go into the house and get things started. Eventually…she thought, as she sat in quiet contemplation on a wooden step, on a dark, Northern Michigan night, staring out over the water that had born witness to her entire life. What came before and what would come after settled in the depths of the cold, clear water.

The cool, off shore breeze carried with it the faces and voices of long ago. Sarah sat for a moment and let those memories fill the quiet around her.