Playing around with a style thing here. I’ve done this a couple of times — working exclusively with dialogue, to both demand more of and also allow more flexibility for the reader — once it was received well; once not so much. Not something I’m giving up on just yet.

“What time did you get up this morning?”

“Oh, God, I’m not sure. I think it was right at five. The sun was streaming in the window. There didn’t seem much pointing in staying in bed. I wasn’t asleep anyway. Why don’t you get curtains?”

“I hate curtains. They make me nervous. Always seems like they’re hiding something. I like to see what’s coming at me.”

“Yeah, well, that also means you can be seen. And it means your guests have to get up with the bloody sun.”

“I’ll give you a sleep mask.”

“Great, then I definitely can’t see what’s coming at me. What the hell do you think’s coming at you anyway?”

“Today’s the longest day.”

“What?”

“It’s the longest day today.”

“That’s stupid. All days are the same.”

“No, dumbass. Today is the longest.”

“You mean today has the most daylight hours. Sure, okay, but all days are the same.”

“No. All days are definitely not the same.”

“Anyway, it’s not the longest day. The longest day was the day we had to drive Cousin Fred to Nana’s funeral.”

“HA!”

“Do you remember that?”

“Good God I try not to. Yeah. That was a long day. That was a long, long day.”

“Do you remember? He complained about everything.”

“Everything.”

“And then he started in on whose fault it was.”

“The women.”

“The Blacks.”

“The Jews.”

“The atheists.”

“The Democrats!”

“Of course, the Democrats!”

“Do you remember you finally turned on the Jesus station and told him we should just be quiet and silently remember Nana?”

“That it was a tribute to her! To just listen to her favourite songs and reflect on her life!”

“Ha.”

“I hate church songs.”

“I know. So do I.”

“But, still, anything is better than Cousin Fred.”

“And, my God, it was so cold. It was so fucking cold. Anytime people tell me it doesn’t get cold in Alabama, I think of that fucking funeral and how I thought my fingers were going to fall off.”

“You gave your gloves to Dot, didn’t you?”

“Yes. Stupid cow. Who goes to a graveside service in January without gloves?”

“Dot.”

“True.”

“Dumb Dot.”

“I miss her.”

“I don’t.”

“No, I guess I don’t really miss her either. But I sort of miss the distraction that was her.”

“Yeah. I can see that.”

“Oh. It was so cold.”

“And Cousin Fred was such a bigoted asshole.”

“And Dot was so dumb.”

“And Nana was so dead.”

“Did you look at her?”

“At Nana?”

“Yeah. At the funeral home?”

“No. I don’t look at dead people. I never have understood why anyone would want to look at dead people. Did you look at her?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“It was an accident. I wasn’t going to. I don’t know why people look at dead people either. But I needed to check on Mother and she was in there with her.”

“God, Mother was so drunk that day.”

“I think the issue was more the Valium than the vodka.”

“Yeah. Probably. Whatever, she was off her head.”

“Well, in fairness, Mother was usually off her head.”

“Yeah. That’s true.”

“Anyway. Mother was in there with her. Weeping and wailing.”

“Weeping and wailing?”

“Yes. I do not lie. Weeping and wailing.”

“Mother? Our mother?”

“Yes. Our mother.”

“The Valium.”

“The need to be the centre of attention.”

“Ah. There is that.”

“Anyway. Mother was in there with her. Weeping and wailing. And I needed to get Mother out and into some sort of presentable state. So I had to go physically pull her away from the casket. And that’s when I saw her.”

“When you saw Nana?”

“Yeah.”

“What did she look like?”

“Dead.”

“Yeah. I guess so.”

“I miss Nana.”

“Yeah. So do I.”

“God, she was mean.”

“Yeah. She was.”

“But I always felt safe with her.”

“Me too.”

“Remember how she used to let us all sleep in her bed with her.”

“Even in the middle of summer.”

“Yeah. When it was way too hot.”

“Yeah. Maybe that’s why she died in January. So she’d never be so hot again.”

“Well, all things considered, I’m not sure Nana could count on a heat free eternity, if you know what I mean.”

“Ha. Yeah. That’s true.”

“Hi, down there, Nana!”

“I hope you’re keeping Satan and his minions on their toes!”

“Do you miss Mother?”

“No.”

“No?”

“Well, sometimes. Sometimes I do miss her.”

“I miss her. I miss the way she smelled.”

“The way she smelled?”

“Yeah. Coffee and cigarettes and a hint of booze.”

“Um hmm. They should make a perfume.”

“You’re younger. You don’t remember her before it got bad. It wasn’t always all bad. She had some spark in her when she was younger.”

“She did? I never saw spark.”

“I know. I think she tried so hard to ‘be good’ that all the spark fizzled out. Really, I loved her best when she was a wee bit mad. That was before you. Or maybe when you were just really little. She was fun. We’d dance. Yes, you were there, I remember. You were a baby. We’d all dance around. Sometimes we’d dress up and she’d let me wear her high heels and makeup and dance on the table, and she’d swing you round. And then one of us would fall – usually her, in truth – and we’d lie in a heap and laugh and laugh and laugh.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“No. I guess you were too young. I think the neighbours complained and they said she wasn’t a ‘fit mother’ and they threatened social services and then everybody told her she had to ‘get her act together’.”

“Who’s everybody?”

“Everybody, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t really remember much. I just remember that that’s around about the time we went to live with Nana. Mother went away.”

“To rehab?”

“I’m guessing so. Nobody talked about.”

“Nobody ever talks about it.”

“True. Anyway, you know, it’s funny, she was Mommy when she left, but she was Mother when she came back. I just remembered that.”

“I only remember Mother.”

“It’s sad for you. She was really fun before. You could tell she loved us. I could tell she loved us. I guess nobody else could. You could. I know you don’t remember it, but you could tell.”

“It’s nice to think so.”

“Yeah. Remember it that way. Just make up the memory if you don’t have it. Because before that she was fun and she loved us.”

“Do you think she stopped loving us?”

“No. No, I don’t. I think it just took all her energy to be what she was supposed to be.”

“You think that’s why she started drinking again?”

“I reckon that must be part of it. I don’t think the fact the doc wrote prescriptions for Xanax like they were gummy vitamins helped.”

“True. Do you hate her for that?”

“For what?”

“For the drinking. And the pills.”

“God, no. Do you?”

“I used to. But, no, not anymore. Now it just makes me sad.”

“Me too.”

“Do you ever go to her grave?”

“Me? No. I don’t go to anyone’s grave.”

“No one’s?”

“No one’s.”

“Why not?”

“Why should I? I think it’s weird. I think it’s all about here and now. We have to be here for now. Once we’re gone we’re gone. The end.”

“Even for me? You won’t visit my grave when I’m dead?”

“I barely visit you now.”

“That’s true.”

“Do you visit her?”

“Sometimes.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I guess I never had that time with her that you did. So, now, I go and I just sit there.”

“You just sit there?”

“Yeah. I think. I watch people.”

“You people watch in a cemetery?”

“Yeah. Cemeteries are brilliant for people watching.”

“Well. Who knew?”

“I did. I do. I knew. I know.”

“Yes. Yes, I suppose you do. So you enjoy your time with Mother now that she’s dead?”

“Don’t say it like that. It’s important to me.”

“Okay. I’m sorry. Really. I am sorry. I shouldn’t have made light of that. I’m glad you have that. Truth be told, I’m jealous. I’m jealous of people who can do things like that. Who can feel like that.”

“Well, now, let’s not get all touchy feely hippy dippy talking to our shrink about it.”

“Deal.”

“Okay.”

“What time is it?”

“About nine-thirty.”

“What time is sunset?”

“In about fifteen minutes.”

“Should we go watch it?”

“Yes. Yes, let’s do.”

“We’ll take a bottle of Jack and toast Mother.”

“Mommy.”

“And Nana.”

“And Nana.”

“But not Cousin Fred.”

“No toasts for bigoted assholes!”

“To mad women.”

“And mad siblings.”

“And longest days.”