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  from Where the Elephants Sleep by Anton Styles

Mourning's Nigh

Not before in five years of life did nighttime pass so slowly for Andy. The cracker-box trailer bedroom heightened claustrophobia in wake of the accident that claimed the lives of his family three days before. As the night lumbered into morning, he searched the opposite wall with bloodshot eyes for any meaning to life. Scarcely awake he peeled his head from the pillow and sat in a heap at the side of the bunk. The scene where it happened was scrawled in his mind, gluing him to grim reality of seeing death splayed before him. 

The alarm clock two rooms away hadn’t yet pierced the silence, granting him the solitary time in his day. Rubbing his eyes he searched for connection to the home that was now a memory. Blinking repeatedly to clear his mind, he accepted it as a fantasy he could no longer afford. The estate on Rose Hill was nothing but a history, and finding a grateful space for dearly departed to dwell was an exercise in futility. An empty mind and blank stare were his only protection from rage.

Nuances of joy that used to make him bound out of bed itched to be enjoyed, but served only as chains of frivolousness in his current condition. The hours spent daydreaming under the old oak tree became calculated attacks that sat in the pit of his stomach. If there was a path forward in this life, he was unable or unwilling to see it. Time had become an enemy to Andy.

A dark grey suit hung on the closet doorknob taunting him of today’s occasion. A white button-down hung underneath to press the squared creases created by cellophane packaging. His pick of the red clip-on tie was the only item he could imagine having use of again, and fanaticized cutting the rest to ribbons as soon as the day was done. Its satisfaction was short-lived. 

           “Responding in anger has no home in our family,” his mother’s voice scolded, a lesson imparted when bite marks appeared on the dash of the family car. Andy’s quick anger resulted in stiff penalty out of public eye, but the reservation of hand to sternly placed words accrued temperance in his actions. Squeezing eyes tightly shut to preserve her voice, he recalled these days of perfection when the best lessons were learned. The fleeting moment passed, and closed the new accommodations in like a casket.                       

           In the corner sat a circus-clad toy box, the only remaining connection to a life he would never again see. It was of only three life-belongings permitted to his name, and a gift from his parents at age 3. Yawning deeply cleared the remaining shadows inflicted by the night, and he fixed his gaze on the box in search of condolences. Offering no reaction to his bitterness, it sat unaffected by its new life and home. The circuses of animals decorating its exterior were posed in action, but Andy had become devoid of the happiness required to bring them to life. “I’m sorry I was mad”, he mumbled into his chest. 

           Visions of a perfect life and family were now as obscure as the angel his mother had claimed him to be, and smiling approval from the elephant w...

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