My grandfather died six days ago. He was ninety, and he had been falling apart. We were at the viewing. I stood about a yard from the coffin. His eyelids were very dark, almost purple. They looked like they were glued shut. His lips were hardly there. I looked at the nice blue suit in which they dressed him. The tie was also blue. There was a baseball placed within his right hand. It was his son’s first game ball. I took a step closer so that my waist was almost touching the coffin. My heart started beating very fast. My mother and aunt were embracing each other and weeping at the foot of the coffin. I looked at my grandfather for a while, and my heart settled down.
Outside of the funeral home a big swarm of flies buzzed along the grass. My uncle said something about how his dad looked like a bar mitzvah boy. He looked like he did in his bar mitzvah pictures. I watched the flies. My sister came over to me and asked if I was okay. Mom told her to ask me if I was okay. I said, “Yes.” Then I said something about the flies.
Then I drove to Maryland for my brother’s bachelor party. There’s not much to say about the timing of everything.
The Airbnb was in Ridge, Maryland. Ridge is an unincorporated community, which means it lacks a local municipality. You supply your own water, septic tank, electricity. The closest restaurant is thirty minutes away, same for the fire department.
The air was hot and thick, and I could feel it all over me. There were country flies as big as ping pong balls. There were plenty of mosquitos and dragonflies, and at night I heard crickets. The house was big enough for the eleven of us. The backyard was wide and right on the bay. Viney trees bordered the sides, and one large tree provided shade in the middle of everything. The water was nice to look at. It was the middle of the day when I arrived. We drank beers in the backyard as the tall tree’s shadow inched along.
My brother and I didn’t talk much about our grandfather. Someone asked us if we were okay. My brother and I looked at each other and nodded a couple of times. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah,” I said.
It was late. I didn’t realize how many people had gone to bed. Four of us were drinking on the deck. Me, my brother, his friend Ray and our third cousin John. We covered ourselves in bug spray. The smell of chemicals in the thick air filled our nostrils.
My brother and Ray found a bucket of cheeseballs and a wiffle ball bat. They were taking turns pitching cheeseballs to each other on the deck. Ray could really hit the shit out of them. He did a couple lines of cocaine earlier, and he was very focused when batting. He played baseball in high school. He told me he hit a homerun off of a five star pitching prospect one time, but I didn’t recognize the name. My cousin and I watched them go back and forth. We shotgunned a few beers. A storm was beginning. My cousin said something about the lightning, and how it looked good over the water. I said that I knew what he meant. I felt very present. Or it was the opposite.
Ray pulled out a small cocaine bag and a knife. He asked us if we wanted any. My cousin and I said no. The last time I tried cocaine my buddy broke my nose and I got lost in Ocean City, New Jersey.
Ray finessed a little bump of cocaine onto his knife and handed it over to my brother. They both did a couple bumps. Then we shotgunned a few more beers and I lit a cigarette. Ray told us that Joe Alderman stole his little brother’s girlfriend. Joe Alderman plays Defensive End for Penn State. He said that if we ever saw Joe Alderman, we would have to make him pay. Ray said that he would kill him. He had never seen his brother so heartbroken. He called him his baby brother. We all said something like fuck Joe Alderman. I kept ashing the cigarette even when there wasn’t much to flick. The rain was coming down now. I thought about all the cheeseballs in the yard and laughed.
We went back inside because the cooler had run out of beers. I was sitting on the couch, feeling tired and drunk. My cousin was asleep on the floor. My brother was commenting on all the bugs that had gotten into the house. All these motherfucking bugs. Ray also saw the bugs. He said that he hated bugs. That reminded him of Joe Alderman, and he said again that he would rip Joe Alderman apart and he made me promise that I’d make him pay if I ever saw him.
My brother was staring at the mass of fruit flies on the kitchen ceiling. They covered a lot of space to the point where the ceiling looked dotted. My brother lifted himself onto the counter and balanced himself for a moment with the cabinets. Then he started smacking the ceiling. He was really smacking it. Loud thuds spread throughout the house. They were deep and hollow thuds that you feel at the top of your ears. I watched him beat the flies. He would look at his hand and spread it along his shorts, or else the ceiling. Then he’d go back to pounding the ceiling.
Noah Kenny is a writer from PA. His work has appeared in The Dillydoun Review, Flash Fiction Magazine and Dead Peasant Journal.