An Empty Grave...
Chapter 10: Peace
I woke very early in the morning, that time when the sky is starting to brighten but the sun hasn't quite begun to color the clouds yet. I woke with an erection--not your standard morning erection but one brought on by a very erotic dream I'd been having. I lay there, still half asleep, fondling myself and thinking about the dream. I'd lost most of it, but I could still see parts of it clearly, the parts with Eric in them, doing things to me I hadn't known I'd wanted him to do. As the fantasy rebuilt itself the pleasure I was bringing myself expanded until there was no stopping it. Release took me by surprise and I made it last as long as I could. When it was over I fell back to sleep, almost happy.
"Well, sleepy head, you going to spend the day in there?" It was Eric, grinning almost the way he had been in my dream. "We've all been up for hours."
I looked at the clock and saw that it was nearly ten. I couldn't imagine I'd slept so late. "I'll be out right away," I said and suddenly realized I was very hungry. "Have I missed breakfast?"
Eric laughed. "I saved you some. I'll go heat it up for you."
When I got to the table Eric put a plate of French toast and sausage in front of me. "You want some eggs too?" I shook my head and dug into the warm toast soaking in maple syrup. "I think this'll be plenty. Thanks for saving it for me"
"Well, it wasn't easy. Ol' Crash here thought it should be hers and it took a lot of talking to convince her she'd already had enough." He topped up my glass of juice and put the container back in the refrigerator. "I set you up in the patio so all you have to do is get yourself out there when you're through. Think you can do that?"
I nodded. I was getting a little tired of being treated like an invalid but, on the other hand, I guessed I was one. "You going to work?"
"Yeah, for a while. The
I smiled back. "Have a good time. You deserve it after playing nursemaid the past couple of days."
After breakfast I managed to get the dishes into the dishwasher and then hobbled out onto the patio. I threw the ball for Crash for a while and then sat up on the table and did the exercises Dr. Langford had given me. They hurt at first, of course, but that went away and I actually ran through them three times. I was tired when I finished but I felt good, too. It had been too long since I'd done anything at all in the way of exercise.
Back on the lounge I found, to my delight, that I could work my shirt off. I opened a ginger ale and wriggled out of my shorts as well so I could work on my tan. Once I settled down I realized that I could smell myself and I thought again that I was going to have to beg Dr. Langford to do something so I could take a shower. I took a swallow of my ginger ale and stretched in the sun, getting the kinks out of my muscles. Crash decided there wouldn't be any more ball throwing for a while so she went and laid down in the shade under the grapefruit tree.
I picked up my book but put it down again before I'd read more than a page. Several things were churning around in my head and I knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate on much else until I got them straightened out. First of course was what I'd done that morning. Not exactly doing it--that came pretty naturally and I hadn't had any problems with it since my dad first explained to me what it was all about. What did bother me was the dream that had brought it on.
Boiled down it was a question of loyalty. Was I being disloyal to Rick's memory, having an erotic dream about Eric and then masturbating to it? Rick wouldn't have cared when he was alive--we'd talked about that and decided that masturbation fantasies of that sort were a natural part of our lives and meant very little. But now, with Rick...
What? Dead? I made myself think the word and then I made myself say it out loud. Dead. Rick is dead and he's not going to come back. Ever. The emptiness took hold far down, somewhere in my groin and slowly ate its way through me until there was nothing left. And then the dam broke and I began to cry. I cried for Rick and for all the love we'd had together and then, finally, I cried for myself. It took a long, long time and I thought I might never stop, I might just give up and grieve my life away and be done with it.
But I didn't. Somewhere deep inside me I heard Rick's voice telling me it was okay. I would never forget him but I would go on. And I would love again. Maybe not the way I loved him but love takes many forms and a life without it is a waste. We talked in my head for a long time then, Rick and I, reliving our life together, laughing over the funny things we did and crying over the things we never got to do. In the end, when his voice faded away I felt free. Free to be myself, free to live my life. Free to sleep.
"Jesus, Davy, you are a mess. And you're going to have one hell of a sunburn if you don't cover up." It was Eric, standing in the kitchen door. Crash came bounding up from somewhere and gave him a lick of greeting. "Hello Doggy. Have you been neglected all day? Come on, maybe we can find something to help." He went back inside with Crash and returned in a few minutes with a big towel which he threw over me. "And look who I found just coming in the gate."
Les came out of the kitchen carrying a Coke and eating a sandwich. "Good," he said, gesturing with the sandwich, "the drive made me hungry. You okay? You want me to call Susan?"
"No, I'm fine. Really. Have a good time?" I hadn't been going to ask but it just slipped out.
He grinned and nodded. He looked tired to me, and his suit was rumpled as though he'd slept in it. "Eric's right. You ought to get out of that sun or you're going to be very uncomfortable. You sure you don't have a little touch of sun stroke? You're awfully puffy and your eyes are all bloodshot."
I didn't have sun stroke but I could feel that I did have a little sunburn. "I guess maybe I should get out of the sun," I said, reaching for my shorts." Les drank down his Coke and took my shorts, helping me into them and then the shirt.
"You need a bath, too," Les said, wrinkling his nose.
"I know. I'm not very good with the sponge yet but I think I'd better give it another try." I was a little dizzy when I first stood up but it passed and I went off to see what I could do about my smell. Crash started to go with me but then decided Les's sandwich was more interesting than my bath.
When I was finished it wasn't perfect but nevertheless a job to be proud of. I got myself into a pair of sweat pants but I still couldn't manage the shirt. I hobbled back to the kitchen with the shirt in my teeth and asked Eric to get it on me.
"Gone to bed."
"Oh. Well, did you have a good time today?"
He gave me that grin again. "Very. I pruned the roses and then did everything else expected of me. Quite well, too, if I do say so myself." He laughed and went to the refrigerator. "You hungry? You didn't eat the sandwich I left for you."
I was hungry. Eric dug some cheese and salami out of the refrigerator and pulled a box of crackers off the shelf. "This'll take the edge off it a little. I tell you what, I'm really in the mood for a steak tonight. How does that sound?"
"Okay. I'm going to run down to the store and see what I can find. You be okay?"
"Sure. What's that?" There was a loud buzzing coming from a panel by the table.
"Intercom. From the gate." Eric pressed a button and asked who was there. It turned out to be Dr. Langford, coming to see how I was doing. Eric released the gate and then waited for her to drive up to the house. He let her in on his way out. "Okay," he called from the front door, "be back in a while. Oh, does Raymond Burr take sour cream on his baked potato?"
"Yes," I called back. "And butter. Oh, hi Dr. Langford."
When I explained the joke she stood back and looked at me critically. "You aren't exactly obese yet but I'd still recommend going lightly on the sour cream and butter. How are you feeling?"
After the examination she said she thought I was doing very well. While changing the bandages she also mentioned that I could probably use a sponge bath.
"I just had one," I said. "Look, I've just got to have a shower. Please?"
"Well... Maybe tomorrow. No, make that Thursday." She looked at her watch. "Thursday evening. We'll take all this stuff off, you can have a shower and then I'll put on a whole new set of bandages. How does that sound?"
It sounded like heaven. Just then Eric came in and invited her to stay for dinner but she said she couldn't. She was working at the county free clinic that evening. After she left I said to Eric that I just couldn't picture Dr. Langford as shy and certainly not as a mousy, drab person.
"I think that, and the rest of our conversation last night, should be forgotten," Eric said. "I don't care about myself but whatever I said about anyone else is their business and not really my place to talk about. Okay?"
I nodded and he went to start the charcoal in the grill outside.
On Wednesday Dr. Langford came over around to minister to my bandages. When she took them off she was very happy with the way everything was healing. She even let me take my shower without using the crutches. It hurt a little to put weight on my leg but not enough to make me reach for the crutches.
The shower was wonderful and I stayed under the hot water so long that Eric came to see if I had drowned. When I got out he was still there and offered to dry my back.
When Dr. Langford did the re-bandaging, it was minimal. "I want that gash in your leg to dry out a little," she said. "Then we'll take the stitches out on Friday. And if you're a good boy you can have a shower again tomorrow. After Friday you'll even be able to get in the pool if you're careful." She took a sip of her wine. "And will you please stop calling me Dr. Langford. I think we've known each other long enough for you to call me Susan, okay?"
I agreed and went to show off my new bandages to Les and Eric who, along with Crash, were attending to the grill.
After dinner I asked Susan about Rick's body.
"I checked with a friend up in the coroner's office and he said that any family member could claim the ashes by paying the fee for the cremation."
I guess my face fell because she smiled and reached out to touch my hand.
"He also said that no one ever checks what anyone says. After all, they get extra points by not having to dispose of the ashes and by collecting the fee which is about all the county is interested in anyway. He also checked and said we could claim the ashes as early as next week."
"Yeah. It seems that I have a
medical meeting up in
"Just like that?" This from Les who had been listening intently. She turned to him.
"Just like that. Well, along with the hundred dollar fee. Which I can put on my credit card."
"No, that won't be necessary. Rick still has some money in our bank account. If I can get to the ATM he'll be able to buy back his own body." Rick, I think, would have appreciated the irony of that.
The evenings were getting warmer so after dinner we all went out and sat by the pool under the stars. Les built a fire in the fire pit but it was more for effect than warmth, I think.
Susan looked at me with a serious expression. "If it's not too... I don't know, I guess if it's not too personal, what are you going to do with his ashes?"
I knew exactly what I was going to do with them. "I guess I haven't told you very much about Rick, have I? He didn't like to talk about his past much but I suppose it's a common enough story." I glanced up at Eric. "May I have a little more wine, please?"
Eric refilled our glasses and then went into the house for another bottle. When he was back I said, "I think I told you, at least you, Susan, that Rick didn't have any family. That's not strictly true. He has... he had a father."
"Let him tell it his own way, Les." Susan turned to me. "Go on, David."
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