Every light in the house was on when I arrived.
The three men sitting in the bright kitchen at the long table that had once been in my grandfather’s service station, clear pine darkened by age, pocked and burned by my grandfather’s cigarettes, the cracks in the grain blacked from my grandfathers oil-covered hands.
They faced one another, their hands palms-down on the polished wood, my father and my uncle and my cousin.
Their faces stamped with the genetic code that marks my own and my brother’s.
Would one day mark my son’s.
Painted by the same artist, my grandmother often said.
The silence so thick I could almost see it.
My father got to his feet, stood before me, not touching.
“She is gone,” he said.
“When?” I asked him, holding my voice steady as a tiller in a choppy sea.
His eyes were wet as he returned to the table and the silence.
I walked to the great hall.
My feet on the staircase, the creak of my weight.
When I was a boy, the stairs had made no sound as I and my brother stole down to lie in wait for Father Christmas.
We were certain we would catch him in the act.
Less certain of what we might do after.