Michelle W. said ~ Write a post that includes dialogue between two people — other than you. (For more of a challenge, try three or more.)
I pick up my sister, just off her ER shift, in the cruiser. As we leave the hospital lot, the dispatcher’s voice cuts in. “There might be trouble out at old Pritchard’s place. Better go have a look.”
“Take the Wilderness Road,” my sister says, “it’s shorter, and park just past the Savage River Bridge.”
We follow the overgrown path, littered with chunks of granite and uncut marble, up to the house. A slab of quarry stone, its edges covered with moss like a five o’clock shadow, leans against the porch.
An old man sits on the stoop, intently filing a square-raised chisel. A grimy light casts a web of shade over his face like a mask. His eyes slide sideways in our direction.
“Evenin’, Pritchard. Remember me? Jonah’s boy? And this my sister, the nurse who used to stop in to check on your wife. You made the headstone when our Ma passed.”
“Ay-uh,” he says, his voice aged in grain alcohol. I peer past his closed face into a dim hallway that smells of hazelnut and regret.
Behind us tires chew on gravel, a car door slams. The hearse spits out Enoch, the funeral director. “Evening, Officer. Ma’am.”
Enoch leans against the jaundiced railing. “I come to leave an order with Pritchard. He don’t hear so good on the phone anymore. Nuthin’ wrong, I hope?” Enoch nods in Pritchard’s direction.
“You come here often?” I ask.
“Yeah, I try,” Enoch says. “Pritchard ain’t been right since his wife passed. Died too young, she did. Bless her soul, now there was a gentle woman. Never complained a day in her life, just took care of him and Ruth, that ingrate daughter of theirs. That girl done broke her mother’s heart. Pritchard don’t much like Ruth coming by. Last time I was out here, Ruth blew in with her fancy coffee and a string of curse words. Always after Pritchard about his drinking. Put him down ‘cause he never made a headstone for his wife’s grave.”
“Ruth been around lately?” my sister asks. “Word is she’s a woman who could bring the devil to his knees.”
“She was just here this morning. I was on the phone with Pritchard, we’re talking about this here order, and I hear her yelling. Useless old man, drinking yourself to death, expecting me to do everything for you. You ain’t done nuthin’ for me. Or Ma. You ain’t even made a stone for her. I can’t hold up my head in these parts ‘cause of you.
“She’s mighty tetchy, that one,” Enoch says.
My sister stays with Pritchard while I take a look in the hall. In a small pool of light, blood leaks from the torso of a woman. Out on the stoop, the rasp of the file grates the stark silence.