Blue Morning - Luke Vargas
Silent, blue light of the early morning crept through the curtains of his small bedroom. He swung his feet from under the thin covers onto the cold creaking boards of the bedroom floor. The cold froze against his skin. The chilly air was still. His breath formed little clouds of vapor as he yawned deeply and stretched in his drowsiness.
The boy pulled on a red T-shirt, a sheepskin-lined denim jacket, and socks under the jeans he’d fallen asleep in. Hopping on one foot he slipped on his mother’s old high-top Converses and skipped through the half open door. With each step the floorboards whined and groaned. His father lay sprawled out across the sofa nearly face down in a cushion. A cold cigarette still hung on his lip. The boy did his best not to wake him as he slipped silently through the front door and carefully let the screen door shut behind him. Shards of a broken bottle crunched under his feet. The Dalmatian lying in the yard rose its head upon seeing the boy. The boy opened the low chain link fence gate and walked over to a beat-up Mustang. He looked back at the dog. You coming, he asked. The dog immediately trotted over to the car. The boy opened the driver side door and let the dog leap in. He looked back at the house for a second. Looking in through the living room window where his father lay dead asleep, the boy paused, but slid into the rusted mustang anyways.
He started driving down the street passing one old weathered house after the other. Each one with chipped paint, rusted chain link, and a beat-up car out front. They drove past the park and the high school. The very same high school his mother and father had gone to before him, the one where they first met. Rabbits sat motionless as the car passed by the patchy football field. The baseball field was mostly dirt with a few weeds barely limping on near home plate.
At first the houses were all packed together, but the further they got the more yard existed between each old home. Soon the boy and his dog started passing only trees and fields. The hills rolled in the distance. The road began to curve and slither the further they got from home. The dog looked intently out the window, his view oscillating from left to right, watching and listening to the world fly past him. The boy rolled down the windows. The brisk air rushed through the cabin. Instantly the dog threw its face out letting the frigid wind blast against his sleek face. The top of a steeple rose up from the distance. A pink light began to creep up from behind the overcast clouds that had hung over the morning. The sun hadn’t quite risen yet.
The mustang pulled over onto a gravel road alongside the orange brick church. A plastic bag heaved up and down on the metal cross atop the white steeple. The boy slowly rolled to a stop. He stared forward into the fields in the distance keeping the sight of the gravestones in the corner of his eye. He took a deep breath and held it in for a moment. He put his hand on the shifter and his foot on the clutch slotting the transmission into reverse. He stopped. He breathed out. He rolled the shifter back into neutral and yanked up on the parking brake. He opened the door and his dog leaped out as he slowly rose out of the car. Grabbing a quilt from the backseat, he turned and walked towards the mossy gravestones. The dog trotted ahead of him and curled up in front of a small stone without any moss on it. The boy stopped in front of the stone and shut his eyes tightly. He turned away. Tears burned as they rolled down his frozen face. He wiped his tears with the old quilt and fell to his knees realizing it didn’t smell like his mother anymore. The boy lay next to his dog, wrapped in the quilt. As the boy’s body heaved with each silent sob, the sun crept into the grey sky, not making a sound.
The boy’s father groaned as the sputter of an engine woke him. His face half in the cushion of the sofa. He rubbed his eyes and pulled away the cigarette from his lip. Pulling himself up, he squinted out between the blinds. He saw the boy slowly roll away from the house and accelerate into the morning. The father lowered himself back on to the couch. He exhaled, staring at the mold spot that had been growing on the ceiling, trying to remember the dream he was just torn away from.
It was the hospital. He was walking down the hall. The fluorescent lights gleamed on the waxed floors. Of course, it was never that clean in all the months he had been there. One of the ceiling bulbs had always gone out or at least flickered in its final hours of life. The cyan and egg shell floor tiles were always scuffed and scratched from the gurneys running up and down the floors all day, but they were spotless. The whole place was dead quiet. The father walked down the empty pristine hall and stopped at room 232. He put his hand on the silver door handle. She didn’t like it when they’d close the door. Slowly turning the handle, unsure of what he would see inside. The door slowly swung open on its hinges. He hesitated, uncertain he actually wanted to know what awaited him. He walked into the room past the bathroom. The one his wife could never use. And there was his son, sitting in a chair beside the bed where his wife lay. The son looked up and smiled at his father. His jeans didn’t have holes in them. But there she was, timeless, ageless, frozen in that moment. Her hair was immaculate and he knew none of this was real. She looked up at him and said something inaudible. She smiled. And he just stared at her angelic face. He stood there, expressionless. Both the son and wife looked at him full of anticipation for the words that may come from his open mouth. But he could conjure nothing. His heart sank in despair, down a cold and feelingless emptiness that seemed to occupy where his soul once lay. The father took a slow breath and let out through his nose. He closed his eyes, and suddenly he was back in the cold living room with the mold spot growing on the ceiling. The father lay there searching around him for something warm to cling to, but there was nothing but the cold sofa.
He stood up and rubbed his face. He stood unevenly because of the left boot he had fallen asleep still wearing. He took one shakey step forward and accidentally knocked over a half-full bottle. Beer poured out across the dark green rug as it rolled away from him. He let out a sigh from his nose. He walked into the hall past his son’s empty room to his own bedroom. He turned the black knob quietly and pushed the door open slowly. He looked in at the dusty room. It had remained untouched, the bed was still made, her pillow and picture frames were still in the plastic hospital bag they had given them when they finally left. The bag sat right on the edge of the bed where he had left it. He stopped and stared at the bag for a moment, contemplating putting the pictures back on the dresser and her bedside table where he took them from. But he walked into the bathroom and grabbed a rag instead. Then came the sound of the old mustang idling in front of the house. The dog barked and the father heard the car door slam and the grating and clink of the metal fence gate opening and closing. He heard his son open the front door and the screen door slamming into place behind him.
There was an inkling to stay put as the son hurried to his room but the father stood up and continued to walk out of his bedroom. As he passed through the hall, he saw his son bending over to pick up the beer bottle lying on the floor. The son looked up. There he stood as tall as his father. He had on the same pair of worn jeans he had been wearing all winter and his mother’s old shoes. The same shoes she used to wear back in highschool when they were dating. The same ones she continued to wear out to eat, when they’d go together as a family to see a movie on saturday nights. He just looked at his son. The son looked up, he had the same dirty brownish blonde hair she had, the same gray-green eyes. As the father felt himself seem to slip away, the numbness creeped in as the memories returned, the son began to walk toward his room. He lowered his head trying not to make eye contact but his father was standing in the way. They looked at each other.
Despite urges to slip past and hide away, the father didn’t move. His heart seemed on the verge of slipping back into the fray, back to the void it had grown so accustomed to but it stayed. His felt a lukewarmness spread about his chest, his heart began to tremble. His lower lip curled in and he bit into his own lips. He saw the redness from tears surrounding his sons eyes and without him even realizing it they began to fall from his own. He embraced his son tightly, gripping him with all his strength, with all the power from his soul. They both wept brutally, unhindered, ungoverned. The father heard the sound of birds chirping outside the front window and the Godmade sun rose, filling the room with bright yellow light, and something he hadn’t known for a long time. The assurance, that everything was going to be alright.