Dietrich sat on the edge of the boat dock, setting down the last few from his six pack next to him. It was just above freezing as the mirror surface of the lake reflected the cold spacey sky. Merle leaned under the amber flood light as he waited for an answer.
"I don't know ."
Merle shuffled forward and sat beside him. It was dead quiet. Not even the wayward chirp of a cricket could be heard. Merle has a certain aura about him that just repels all surrounding wildlife. It used to set off the hairs on Dietrich's neck, but after a few years he's forgotten about that feeling. A full minute passed by and he signed to Dietrich again, though his claws were hardly visible in the darkness.
Dietrich shrugged. "It ain't that simple. Try'n look back— mentally. Any lil thing. It's like try'n to remember a scene from an old movie or the weather in a photograph." He then gently palmed the cold flat stone in his hand he picked up on his walk earlier.
"You know… I have hard times rememberin what her voice sounded like. How dumb is that?"
Merle just listened for a while, then responded.
Dietrich nodded and with a flick of his wrist, skipped his stone a good long ways across the water's surface. "The heartache, the tears, even that's all fuzzy… if I even felt dem things then. I was a kid when it happened. I never felt what I should've felt. Just like how I can't remember what I should remember."
Merle leaned back on his arms and watched the stone finally sink into the quiet black. Dietrich popped open another beer. "The worst part? The worst part is that for a while when she was in decline, ya know… it was kinda what I subconsciously wanted."
"As a teenager, nuthin makes sense. But there's always this, I dunno, a competition between stupid young shitheads to see who has the worst home life. Somehow issues like yer parents gettin divorced, bein abused as a kid, or things like that makes you cooler. High school is ass-backwards."
Dietrich continued. "One thing I do remember… when Pa carried her downstairs and sat her in the chair on Christmas mornin. She watched us like a corpse as my brother and I opened presents. The whole holiday was just hollow. That was the last I'd seen her. I wasn't brave enough to go to her room, too 'fraid I'd be the one to find her dead. She died two days later in the middle of the night in her bed. Her name was Betty."
"I went back to school. I pretended like nuthin was wrong. I even lied bout her bein alive. Like there was no cancer. I couldn't handle the reality and the guilt. Oh fuck, that guilt. This went on fer years, Merle."
"Oh! My teachers knew. Yeah. I was prolly bein watched to see if I flipped out. I never did. Nobody talked to me… or asked. So I just pretended. And after all that pretendin… I forgot to grieve. I forgot to grieve, Merle. And I've forgotten how to even start. The lie went on fer so long, I forgot that it was a lie in the first place. How's that fer bein a teenager?"
Dietrich looked at Merle, then at his feet. "Nope. Maybe. Does it matter?" He took a swig. "Everyone's Ma dies. My sad story ain't so special, Merle. So I'll have a few beers every Christmas— where we dumped her ashes. Maybe I can jog a memory or two. Remind myself of the lie. Maybe even figure out how to— nevermind."
Dietrich took a long swig. "Too many years, not 'nuff beers." He was just drunk enough to roll one over to Merle, which he just stared at with his empty eyes.
Dietrich took another long swig and tossed the empty can next to him. "Just humor me then. I'm a drunk trying to dig up his shitty past. And you're a— thing. A thing that has to listen to me."
"How else you think this's gonna end?" With a grunt and a burp, Dietrich groggily stood up. The beer sloshed in his belly as he blinked hard to focus. "H-help me find my way back to the camper, Merle."