The house was now empty. Two small moving trucks and a large pickup truck were loaded up with possessions. There was a large dumpster filled to overflowing with most of the rest. The only thing left was a large oak table that was still standing on the sidewalk outside the door. Around the table stood three adults, two women and a man, siblings to each other and the grown children of the old man who used to live in that old house.
Juan could only shake his head silently to himself as he stood there, waiting next to the "For Sale" sign; waiting for the word from one of the three "children" that he could haul the dumpster away. Instead, the three of them kept up the bickering he'd been privy to for the past hour since he arrived. When they weren't bickering with each other, they were on their cell phones bickering with someone else. None of them seem to realize, or maybe they didn't seem to care, that Juan was standing withing earshot of their bickering conversation.
"Look could we just get this over with," squawked Linda, the younger, and slightly heavy set, sister. "Kevin and the boys are already half way to Aruba by now. I want to fly out and meet them there."
"Probably having a grand time without you," Pam, the older sister, and the oldest of the trio, quipped. "'When the cat's away', you know."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Linda fired back.
"Oh PLEASE! How many times has that man cheated on you now? And you're still with him. And he's conveniently on a cruise, out in the Caribbean, without you there, and surrounded by bikini-clad babes. That's a very tempting place you put him in all by himself."
"Keven hasn't cheated on me for two years now," Linda shot back.
"That you know of," Pam added under her breath.
"The counciling has been really helpful. Something you should have tried yourself, you know. Maybe one of your marriages would have survived. At least I'm still on my first one."
"Could the two of you keep it down?" Arnold, the son in the middle of the two girls, said to his sisters. He held a cell phone to his ear. "I'm in the middle of an important conversation, here."
His two sisters looked at each other and then at him. "By all means, Arnie," Pam said with an exaggerated bow toward her brother. "Wouldn't want family to intrude on the rest of your life."
Arnold hung up the phone. "That's a laugh, Pam. When did you care about family? This is the first time I've seen you in how many years? Five? It takes dad to die before you can deign to take yourself out of your gold-dug palace to see either of us?
"For your information," Arnold continued, "that was Robert telling me that the deal with the Chinese firm we are trying to partner up with is beginning to fall through. So I need to be on a flight to Beijing in a few hours to save it. So, for once I agree with Linda. Let's get this over with ASAP."
"I should have been ON that cruse ship with Kevin anyways if it wasn't for dad deciding that he had to go and die now," Linda said, picking up her argument where Arnold had interrupted.
"Yeah, well he'd been sick for a while hadn't he?" Arnold berated his younger sister. "How many times did you stop by and see him in the past year?"
"I was here for his birthday two months ago, same as you," Linda shot back. "Unlike some," she fired at her sister.
"I had a court case I couldn't get out of," Pam defended.
"Maybe if you stopped taking your husbands to court for more and more of their money you might actually have time for family once in a while," Arnold chimed in.
Pam huffed. "Why would I want to have time for this family anyways? What has it done for me?"
"Here we go again!" Linda cried up into the clear blue sky.
"I'm the oldest child, and yet all I got from anyone in this family was a load of crap. You," Pam pointed her finger at Arnold, "were the only son in the family. The pride and joy of mom and dad's eye. And you," she pointed her finger at Linda, "were the cute little baby of the family, pampered and... overfed all your life. And what did I get?"
"You got plenty," Arnold returned. "Music lessons, dance lessons, horse riding lessons, a new car at sixteen, while myself and Linda got mom and dad's hand-me-downs."
"Those were just to shut me up," Pam retorted. "You and Linda got all of the real attention."
"Oh, I wish you would just shut up," Linda exploded, placing herself between Arnold and Pam. "You constantly whine and complain about how much 'love and affection' we got from mom and dad while you didn't. Well what do you care now anyway? You can go back to your rich-bitch palace and live in the lap of your ill gotten luxury while I work long, crazy hours as a nurse. This is the first chance I've had for a vacation in years, and instead of spending it on a cruse ship with my one and only husband, I'm here dealing with dad's stuff and listening to how 'no one ever loved' you!"
Pam looked apoplectic, but try as she might have wanted to, she said nothing. Her mouth just opened and closed like some fish washed up on shore, trying to think of some biting remark to make towards Linda and shooting down each thought soon after coming up with it.
Arnold looked at his watch. "I've got two hours before I have to leave for my plane, I'd rather not spend them here continuing these old arguments. So, we have the old dining table left over. Who's going to take it?"
"Kevin likes modern-looking things," Linda said. "This would clash with everything I have in my house."
"I have no need for an old table like this," Pam said with a bit of disgust. "I already have one and it's much better than this old thing."
"And I have no room in my small condo for a table like this," Arnold added.
"Then let's give it to the trash man over there and go," Pam decided. The other two nodded. Pam motioned to Juan.
Juan watched as the three siblings got into each truck and slowly drove away. He shook his head once again and strode up to the old oak dining table. He could tell by looking at it that it had been hand made. The table top was still smooth, but just about everywhere else on the table had been carved into intricate designs. There were places where it was obvious that this was a first attempt at woodworking. There were actually nails in some places, where wooden dowels would have been better, but still it was sturdy. Juan wasn't an expert on woodworking, but he's seen enough tables and other bits of wooden furniture during his many years as a "waste management specialist" to know that there were some amateur methods to the table's construction, but that it was also well made regardless.
Juan ran his hand over the top of the table and had the sudden vision of a young man in his early twenties working away at the rough blocks of oak wood in his shed. He could see the young man as he worked the lathe, making the intricate table legs. He could see the man carving into the side of the support beams that would eventually support the table top and attach to the table legs. Juan thought that he could almost see letters being carved into the side, but before he could see what the letters spelled out, the vision changed. It was no less than ten years later. The man, a woman whom Juan supposed was the man's wife, and three kids, ranging in age from about ten to four, all sat around the table. The man had told a funny story, and everyone around the table was laughing. It was as grand a family scene as Juan remembered from his own childhood and any that he has had with his own family now. He inwardly smiled at the scene.
As the vision faded from his mind, his hand ran along the underside of the table, and across the carved surface of the support beam. He could feel the letters carved into the side, and bent over to look at the underside of the table. He could see the words written there. The scene of the young man making the table, the young family laughing around it, and then of the three grown children arguing around it and just leaving it behind caused a tear to fall down his cheek as he read and reread the words carved into the table.
It made Juan sad. The man had grown old and died. To hear the old man's three children, Juan was certain there was no grave stone. Only the words left behind on this table would mark the old man's passing. Only the words left behind on this table would stand as the old man's epitaph; an epitaph that only he had bothered to read.
"For my children"
Based on "Morningside"
By Neil Diamond
Edited by Richcelt, 18 July 2010 - 11:17 AM.