by H.E. Taylor
|Chapter 64||Table of Contents||Chapter 66|
Matthew Fontaine, December 11, 2058
Over the course of that summer and fall, the number of sunshades slowly increased. It became part of the weather report. “And today the sunshade count is …” On clear days the sun was too bright, but on cloudy days the smudge on the side of the sun was easily discernible.
One morning in early December, I had the radio on during the usual rush to get ready and they mentioned a food riot in Brazil. As ususal I wondered if Matt were still in South America, but didn’t dwell on it. On top of the usual things, Anna had some kind of flu and Edie was worrying about her as I set out for university.
I had three classes spaced so that there was little time for anything else. I spent what little free time I had catching up on unread papers in my office.
Carman walked into the back of my last class of the afternoon as I was outlining work and reading requirements for the upcoming term. When I finished the current week’s assignments, the class broke up and Carman approached.
“Good day, Mr. Fontaine.”
He’s being a bit stiff and formal I thought. Why?
As soon as I asked myself the question, I realized he was performing an unwanted duty.
He didn’t like it — which meant I really wasn’t going to like it. My heart lurched.
“What is it?”
“I have some bad news, Mr. Fontaine.”
My mind ran through possibilities. “What?”
“Your brother Matt is dead.”
I felt like a hammer had struck me between the eyes. “Oh.” I put my hand out to steady myself on the edge of the desk. “Where? How?”
“In Bolivia. He was trying to arrange a business deal and it fell apart — disastrously. I can send you a report if you want the details.”
“Yes, that would be good.” I felt like I was talking through a cloud. Dead? That couldn’t be?! “Are you sure? How do you know?”
“We verified the DNA.”
There was no escape. Matt was dead. Damn! Now what? The world suddenly seemed a dark and forbidding place.
“What about his body?” I felt as though the air had congealed into honey and I had to fight my way through.
“We can arrange to have it shipped, if you like. It will be expensive.”
I knew I couldn’t afford it. “I’ll have to talk to my other brother.”
“Well, you call in and let us know. The body is currently in a hospital morgue.”
I nodded still trying to wrap my mind around the reality. Matt was dead. I couldn’t escape it. Matt was dead.
Carman looked very uncomfortable.
“I regret being the bearer of such news.”
I looked at him and remembered Matt laughing at a video news report once. “These authoritarian types can never say ‘they’re sorry’. The closest they will ever come is, ‘I regret’ or even more distant, ‘It is unfortunate that…’ in the passive voice.”
Carman walked away and I wrestled with my anger and grief. “Well you finally got rid of your little problem!” I wanted to yell at him, but I kept my mouth shut.
As I walked home from university, I bawled my eyes out.
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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Last modified November 5, 2013