A Tomb in Every Tree

A Tomb in Every Tree

by

Phillip McCollum

“How much should we leave Marnie?”

“Zero.”

“Come on,” Harold said. Fluffy shifted her head and rested it back on her owner’s foot. The gray and white Shih Tzu hardly ever left Harold’s side these days.

“Zilch.”

Harold’s rubbed at the sunspots covering the back of his hands. Whatever ‘rejuvenation’ cream Linda bought for him didn’t seem to be working.

“Be serious,” he said, still talking to his wife, but staring at the four-by-six photos pinned to the corkboard above the desk. There was a mix–Don, Marnie, and the two grandkids, Mischa and Sloane all standing in front of a faux castle, all wearing those round black hats with mouse ears. To its right was another photo that dipped further into the past. Linda and him at a ‘50s Flashback dance put on by their church when they lived in Indiana. Then there was the only surviving photo with Harold and his squadmates in Korea. Their first week of deployment before they’d let their beards grow out and shortly before the bitter cold and ‘accoutrements of war’ (as his buddy Krieger used to put it) had a chance to beat them all down.

“I am serious,” Linda replied. The chop-chop-chop of her knife slicing through a Maui onion and onto the cutting board provided a backing rhythm. “She never brings Mischa and Sloane over except for maybe two times out of the year. And she only calls when she needs your help with something.”

“She’s busy. The girl’s got two jobs.”

“We’re all soooo busy,” Linda said, tweaking her voice. “I doubt she’s ever too busy to see her mother.” Sun streaming through the kitchen window highlighted the gray in her faded dye job. Harold wished she would just let certain things go.

“You don’t know that,” he said. “We can’t just leave her out of the will.”

Linda dropped the knife and dug her fists into her hips like the old George Reeves, minus the cape.  “Why not?”

“You think Don would have wanted that? What about the girls?”

Harold saw it coming. He ducked just in time to hear a dirty dishrag whiz by his ear and smack into the wall above the desk.

“Don’t you dare tell me what Don would have wanted. And the girls will be just fine, assuming Marnie hasn’t gone through the life insurance payout yet.”

Fluffy scrambled onto her paws and hopped out of the way as Harold pushed back from the desk. The wheels on his clearance-sale office chair squeaked. For the twelfth time that day, Harold thought about grabbing a can of spray lube from the garage, but he knew it was best to get out of the house for awhile. He bent over slowly and picked up the washrag, careful not to put any strain on his lower back.

“I’m gonna take a walk,” he said, depositing the rag on the counter in front of Linda. Fluffy pranced and tapped around the tile floor as Harold grabbed the leash from the counter.

“Dinner will be ready at five-thirty,” his wife finally said as Harold was halfway out the door.

If you’d like to finish reading this story, along with many others, I’d be ecstatic if you’d consider purchasing one of my books.

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