Cutline

Audrey turned to the back page of The Oregonian’s A section. Her eyes fell on something, and without realizing it she closed her arms around herself. She skimmed a few paragraphs, but her thoughts went elsewhere. She called Evan and Joe from their bedrooms.

Carl was watching the first quarter of the Blazers-Suns game.

“Carl, could we mute this for a few minutes?” she asked.

“Oh, ‘be patient,’ my foot,” Carl said, standing up.

“What?”

“Huh? Oh, sorry, hon. Blazers just blew a fourteen-point lead and the coach says he’s being patient. I can’t watch this.” He disappeared into the dark kitchen.

“Carl—” She heard him open the fridge, heard the rattling of beer bottles and the shoosh of the door shutting. She waited.

Carl got comfy again. The boys came down the stairs and sat where they could get away quickly: Evan on the arm of the couch, Joe straddling a hard chair.

Pam Wells/The Pullets

“Okay, Aud, what’s up?” Carl asked.

Audrey showed them the newspaper photo.

“What is that?” Evan asked.

“What do you see?”

“Flowers on the street,” Evan said. “Pictures… candles.”

“It’s a memorial, dude,” Joe said.

“I saw it online,” Carl said. “The bus accident downtown.”

The photo which had gripped Audrey had been shot just a few inches from the pavement. In the foreground was a tribute to the victims struck by a TriMet bus Saturday night in downtown Portland.

“Did you know them?” Evan asked.

“No.”

“Then—”

“I’ll cut to it,” she said. “Joe, I’d like to name you as Evan’s guardian in my will. I’m assuming your dad will follow suit to avoid any confusion. I hope you understand how much responsibility you’d be taking on if something—if we weren’t here anymore. But you’re the natural choice, not the aunt and uncle you don’t remember. If you’re okay with that.”

Joe straightened. “I’m okay with that,” he said, and glanced at Evan. “You okay with that?”

Evan was okay with that. He and Joe went back upstairs.

Carl quietly sipped his beer.

“We’ve been talking about it for two weeks, Carl. What if?” Audrey said, and held up the photo. “What if this was our caption?”

©2010 Pam Wells

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