They filled their plates and began to eat. Ed looked around the room as he chewed on the roast she had prepared. He suddenly realized there were pictures of Sontag with other men hanging on the wall — wedding portraits it seemed, five different ones, and in each one the bride and her grooms wore somber expressions on their faces.
“You had five husbands?” Ed blurted out, pointing toward the pictures with his fork.
Lewis kicked at him from under the table. “I think that’s kind of personal, Ed. Just eat.”
“It’s okay,” Sontag said, slightly embarrassed. “I have nothing to hide. Yes, Ed, I’ve been married five times.”
Ed pushed some carrots into his mouth with his fork. He was confused. “What happened to them?”
Lewis was becoming annoyed. “Maybe she doesn’t want to talk about it, Ed.”
“Maybe she does. Let her decide,” Ed growled.
She wiped at her mouth with a white cloth napkin. “Let’s just say I made some mistakes in judgment. I thought I was following God’s will and it turned out I was being tricked by the devil. He can do that, you know.”
“Five times?” Ed wondered aloud.
Lewis clutched her hand from his place at the table. “You really don’t have to talk about this now, dear.” He glared at Ed. “I don’t think it’s appropriate Sunday dinner conversation.”
“I’d like to know why she keeps their pictures up on the wall,” Ed kept on. “Don’t you find that a bit curious, Lewis?”
“We talked about it. I’m fine with it,” Lewis said. “The past is the past, but memories are allowed to remain.”
“Bullshit! No sane man would be fine with that. And look there, another space on the wall ready for you.”
“You son of a bitch!” Lewis suddenly yelled out. “How dare you talk about her like that, and in her own house. You knew how important this day was to me and you just had to go ahead and ruin it anyway. You’re nothing but a bitter old man with a passion for hurting other people.”
Sontag started crying. Lewis angrily pushed himself away from the table and walked to the big front window and just stood there and looked out at the hot world painted in storm orange. There was some distant thunder, and a light, dusty rain began to fall and beaded on the glass. The gospel record was skipping on the player.
It was later, and Ed was in the kitchen helping Sontag clean up the dishes. Lewis had moved from the front window and stepped out onto the back patio. He was sitting in a chair, smoking a thin cigarette, and looking at the rain from beneath a canopy. He was very gloomy.
“I’ve never seen him so upset,” Ed said. “I’m really sorry I messed everything up today.”
She turned to look at him and just shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t think you really are, but I’ll live. I’ve been through much worse than what happened today.”
“Is that why you have so much toilet paper?”
“In your bathroom. You have a lot of toilet paper.”
“Were you snooping through my personal things?”
“No. I just needed some more. What did you expect me to do? Use your curtains?”
“That’s disgusting, Ed.”
She dried her hands and forcefully threw the towel on the counter and walked to the other side of the room and crossed her arms. She kept her back to him.
“What’s the matter now?” Ed wanted to know.
“You’re really weird, and…”
“I’m going to lie down. I have a headache. Would you mind tucking me in?”
Sontag turned around to face him. “I know it sounds silly, but I sleep much better when someone tucks me in.”
Ed followed her down the hallway and into her bedroom. It smelled of eucalyptus and environmentally friendly bug spray.
“Close the door please,” she said. “And lock it.”
Ed did what she said but kept his distance from her. Sontag began to undress in front of him until she was fully exposed.
“Just what the hell is going on here?” Ed asked.
“I always sleep naked. I have to. That’s just the way I am.”
She crawled into the sheets, propped herself up on a pillow with an elbow and looked over at him.
“You can’t tuck me in from way over there,” Sontag said in that sultry tone she could turn on so easily.
Ed fidgeted. “I don’t think this is right. Hell, what about Lewis? He’s going to wonder what is going on.”
“Forget about Lewis,” Sontag moaned. “He is so… So wishy-washy and lame. That’s not what I need.”
“That’s cruel of you to lead him on like that, though. He truly cares for you.”
“Ed, darling. Quit being such a fruitcake. Do you not realize you have a sexy, naked woman in a bed right in front of you?”
Ed slowly moved toward the bed until he was towering over her. Sontag laid out flat, uncovered, completely vulnerable to the animal. She closed her eyes and licked her lips. “Touch me however you please,” she whispered.
Ed slowly reached out two hands and moved them down toward her intelligent breasts. She gasped slightly when his skin made contact with hers. He clumsily kneaded her like he would two mounds of soft bread dough.
“How’s that?” Ed asked her.
Sontag opened one eye and smiled. “Pretty decent. But now I want you to kiss me.”
Ed moved closer to her face and recklessly placed his mouth on hers, and then it was ignited, and they tangled in strange love, quickly and awkwardly.
Ed went out to the truck parked in front of Sontag’s house, climbed in, and just sat there. It was a long time before Lewis finally emerged. He got into the truck, slammed the door hard, and started the engine. Ed hesitated, then looked over at him as they began to pull away.
“Is everything okay with you two?”
“No, Ed, everything is not okay,” Lewis angrily answered. “She broke up with me. She actually told me I’m wishy-washy. Can you believe that?”
Ed rubbed at his beard with his hand and looked out the window. “I know it may not seem like it at the moment, Lewis, but I think it’s probably best that way.”
“How the hell do you know? Why do you always assume you know what’s best for everybody?”
“I just don’t think she’s the right woman for you, that’s all.”
“It’s not really for you to decide, Ed. But just what happened in there tonight? I don’t get it. I thought things were going just fine between me and her. But you carried a weird vibe with you. It was almost as if she liked you more.”
Ed painfully sighed. He didn’t know how to break it to him.
“She grabbed my wiener, Lewis.”
Lewis slammed on the brakes in the middle of the road.
“She did what!?”
“In the kitchen. She fondled me down there. Like some sort of lady pervert. She really got into it, too.”
Lewis jerked the truck to the curb. “Get out!” he screamed.
“Get out of my truck!”
“Lewis, please. It was her, not me.”
“You slobbery old fool! I never want to see you again! Our so-called friendship is over!”
Ed reached for the handle, opened the door, and climbed out. Lewis sped away in a fury.
Ed Blackrose slowly walked to a gas station and bought himself a gross hot dog and a bottle of Coke. He found a young couple there willing to give him a ride back to his house. He gave them one of the twenties he stole from Sontag’s bathroom cabinet for gas. Ed climbed into the back seat, and they tore off. The radio was loud, and it irritated him, but he didn’t say anything.
“You really live way out here by yourself?” the guy driving asked him.
Ed leaned forward so they could hear him. “Yes. I do.”
The woman turned around to look at him. She was pretty. She smiled at him. “Don’t you get lonely?”
“Yes. I do,” he answered, and then he leaned back in the seat and didn’t say anything else until they dropped him off.
“Thanks a lot,” Ed said, and he waved, turned, and went into his house.
Ed went to his messy bedroom and dug a box out of the closet. He sat on the edge of the bed, clicked on a lamp, and removed the lid. He reached his hand in and pulled out a piece of newspaper. He unfolded it and scanned the page for the small headline, nearly lost in all the other bad news that day.
Mother, Teen Killed in Accident
A Gem City mother and teen died Sunday morning after their car slid off an icy road and flipped into a ditch. Audrey Blackrose, 41, and Jenna Jean Blackrose, 19, were both pronounced dead at the scene after emergency responders arrived. According to an official police report, Audrey Blackrose was driving westbound on State Route 9 when she lost control of her vehicle, went off the road, and crashed into a ditch. Speed and alcohol are believed to be contributing factors in the accident, the report says. A family member says the mother and daughter were on their way to a service at a local church when the accident occurred.
Tuesday arrived but Lewis did not. Ed waited the entire day and there was nothing. He kept looking out the window for that familiar trail of dust behind Lewis’ truck, but it never appeared. A few times he considered picking up the phone and calling to tell him the whole story about himself and Sontag, and all that had happened between them, but he could never go through with it. He decided to just try and live with it.
When the sun began to fade, he went out to the front porch and rocked in his chair with a glass of iced tea in his hand. He sat out there for a long time. The cubes slowly melted in the wet glass. He missed his wife and daughter, just like he did every single day. He tried to swallow the ache of his whole life as the moon crawled up the wall of the universe and took its place to look down upon him.
When he started to get restless, Ed went back into the house, fetched his pistol, and went for a walk to the ridge. The moon was now high, full, and blue. It followed him as he hiked to his favorite spot, stood tall, and let the expanse just swallow him. For some strange reason, it finally felt good to him to be alive. He unholstered the pistol, studied it in the light of night, and out of habit, put it to his head. He looked up at Jupiter. This is the last time I’m doing this, he thought to himself. He hesitated. Then his arm dropped to his side. He looked at his wristwatch. It was getting late. Ed was feeling too tired to mess around outside anymore. He holstered the gun, climbed down off the ridge, and slowly walked back to the house.
Ed went inside, locked the door, and set his gun belt on a messy table. He went for a glass of water and his pills. He went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and stripped off his clothes and changed into grandpa pajamas. He clumsily climbed into his bed and stared at the ceiling. The house was quiet except for the soft whir of the box fan. His mind was oddly calm, yet terribly alone and wandering in an endless forest of thoughts.
“I must be too tired to talk to myself tonight,” he mumbled aloud. “I’ll just go back to dreaming.” His eyes weighed down quickly and he went to sleep.