I think the first inkling I ever had of my own dissolution was when the hospital called my mother and told her Arthur was dead. He was her stepbrother, and he was an excruciatingly gentle person. His back was recurved in such a way he had to turn himself to talk to you, and you had to bend in to hear him speak. Like a lot of my mother’s family, he had a large, awkward looking head, but it was always carefully canted to you when you were talking to him. He was one of those people you immediately identify as trustworthy. He hung his life on Insurance.
There was a small noise from the back of her throat. A sort of click. She put the phone back on the cradle and went to bed. We had to help dress her for the funeral.
He’d essentially subbed for her father after her old man alienated her by routinely beating her with whatever household implements lay at hand. The old man beat all of the children: there were no particular favorites.
Arthur most resembled his sister Helen. The photographs of her from high school show an unusually pretty, alert woman. Arthur was also handsome, but his shoulders had already started to fall in the professional photographs he had taken to promote himself as an insurance salesman. They both relinquished their beauty early, and clung to the heartless jerk who destroyed them, even helping him through his dotage.
I remember a dull, stupidly hot day , when I was four or five, sitting by the driveway of our house when Arthur pulled up in his sedan. He slept in the car for a minute or two after it coasted to a stop. Then he began the slow process of getting himself out. Now I’m old , and I think back on his movements, he must have been in nearly intolerable pain. He opened the rear passenger door and grabbed a couple comic books and handed them to me. “You can color these, if you want. Your momma home?” We both laughed. My momma’s ass was always home. Cleaning everything from the sick linoleum to the refrigerator fans with a fucking toothbrush. And then scanning the TV for Paul Lynde.