We, his oldest friends, arrive at Patrick’s with bottles of wine, bags of snacks, help him prepare the table: glasses, plates, silverware; iced bottles of sparkling water; apples, strawberries, banana bread.
The table is at the corner of Patrick’s garden, though soon we’ll move our chairs into the shade under the yellow birch. At first it’s, “What a beautiful afternoon!”, “How I love these gatherings!” Then we talk about our stresses, struggles; vent, laugh, reminisce.
“I met Kevin at the grocery store,” we say, “we went home that night, stayed together for fifteen years. The sex was the best I ever had,” we say, our eyes glazing, “when he died in my arms he didn’t remember my name.”
“My brother was so talented,” we say, as hummingbirds dart and flit, “he sat at the piano and improvised—anything. Just pure beauty flowing from his fingertips.” As the breeze shifts, carries a scent from hidden blossoms. “But the real world?—no. I used to run all his errands because he was too afraid.”
We share our fears about getting older. “This pain in my side,” we say, “I can’t eat dairy anymore at all,” we say, “you know Sister’s back thing turned out to be serious, it may be malignant.” We worry about mowing the lawn, painting the porch, Saturday morning trips to the Post Office. “It’s so busy on Saturdays,” we say, picturing the rush and flurry, everything moving too fast now that we’re so slow. “You have to have eyes in the back of your head.”
When it darkens, the June bugs fling themselves against the lit windows of Patrick’s house. “So strange,” we say, “disgusting,” we say. “No they’re beautiful,” we say, “if you look up close, like metallic mahogany.”
“The adults live less than a year,” Patrick says. “In the morning there’ll be a dozen dead on their backs around the house. By autumn all their lives will be over.”
The forget-me-nots, the honeysuckle, the bearded irises, the rows of ferns. A dream world. “This is my favorite time,” Patrick says, lifting his glass. “Please remember I love you all.” The robins light in the trees, join the evening songs of the peepers and the wood thrush. We gather nearer the table, drink the last dregs of wine, barely speak, remember other nights at Patrick’s, so many. Spot the lightning bugs, at first high in the firs, then settling over the lawn, pulsing in and out, flickering among us. It’s late. There’s nothing to do now but listen, be close to each other, wait for the next glimmer of golden-green light.
Timothy Boudreau’s recent work appears or is forthcoming in Reflex Press, Cease, Cows, and MonkeyBicycle, and has been nominated for Best Microfiction and a Pushcart Prize. His collection Saturday Night and other Short Stories is available through Hobblebush Books. Find him on Twitter at @tcboudreau or at timothyboudreau.com.