The Last of It

Ohio State is second rate, ’cause Michigan is num-BO-one.

Bill’s index finger hovered an inch from the wall-mounted garage door opener, casting a slight pillar of shadow across the yellowed wall.

Ohio State is second rate, ’cause Michigan is num-BO-one.

The bumper sticker was faded and wrinkled, but still legible. How long had it been since he had unpeeled the backing and slapped that sticker underneath the wood-grained Sears & Roebuck opener? Twenty years? Thirty?

Bill couldn’t recall, and didn’t care to. It was a fixture within the compendium of fissures and stains in the plaster. And for years, he’d ceased to notice its individual existence, as it had become ingrained in the visual fabric of ‘that which seemed to always be’. But this morning, ‘that which seemed to always be’ was about to change. And perhaps that’s why the sticker was giving Bill pause — a sticker he hadn’t truly seen in twenty years, despite the fact that he’d looked at it everyday.

Perhaps.

Ohio State is second rate, ’cause Michigan is num-BO-one.

Bill dropped his hand away from the opener and pivoted slowly on the wooden step, looking out into the 2-bay garage. Atop concrete stained by 46 years of oil changes on 4-door Buicks and Chevrolet sedans were the seven card tables he’d borrowed from Faith Church, each laden with what Kay kept referring to as ‘the last of it’: pans, bookends, serving trays, utensils, baskets, glasses, garden tools, eyeglass cases, letter openers… the final assembly of items his daughters had picked over and passed on, the antique dealers had declined, and he and Kay couldn’t see to bring with them to the two small rooms they’d been allocated within Reeds Assisted Center in Springfield.

Yes, this was the last of the dispersal.

The last of the purge.

The last of — ‘it’.

Bill shook his head, and looked down at his 23 year-old watch — the farm bureau’s gift at his retirement party. 8:56. Four minutes. He closed his eyes and listened, expecting to hear the eager, expectant grumbles of the vultures he and Kay had been warned about — those who would arrive an hour early, haggle in earnest over a nickel, and trample his rhododendrons on their way out.

But there was nothing.

No murmurs. No rapping on the doors. No shuffling of impatient feet.

Just a peaceful, delicate, pristine silence.

But then, within the silence, there were sounds: the rustle of maple leaves grazed by the morning breeze, the muffled tick of the water heater turning over, and a trickle of liquid descending through the drainpipe — Kay more than likely, dumping out the remainder of the percolator. The orchestra of 11 Brookmont Drive that — after 46 years of existing within it — he’d ceased to hear.

Bill opened his eyes.

Sunlight that was filtering through garage’s side windows, and the infinite number of dust particles that hung suspended in its swath with shimmering in the light — like stars.

It was beautiful.

And as he breathed, there suddenly came a powerful rush of smells: lawn mower gas cans and spilled fertilizer, grass seed and Bag Balm, Neets Foot oil and blacktop resurfacer, disintegrating leaves impaled on the teeth of wood-handled rakes and carnuba car wax.

He breathed again, and the rush of scents quelled to a whisper.

8:59.

62 years of marriage told him that Kay was — at this very moment — making her way through the kitchen, heading to the breezeway and the door the garage, wondering why she hadn’t heard the garage door open yet. He turned back to the garage door opener, and the faded and wrinkled bumper sticker beneath it.

Ohio State is second rate, ’cause Michigan is num-BO-one.

Bill pressed his lips together, reached out, and pressed the button on the opener.