A Closed Door by Andrew Q. Gordon
Release Date: 08 October, 2014
Sometimes when you leave to find yourself,
you’ve left the answer behind.
NOTHING. Gone. Wiped-off-the-face-of-the-fucking-earth gone.
Orin stared at the remains of his childhood home. His parents’ house. The one they died in. The thought made his knees weak again and he sank to the ground. Tears tried to form, but he’d cried for so long he had nothing left. Even the pain shooting through his already bruised knees didn’t change that.
How? They’d lived here long enough to know better. Tornado warnings meant ‘be on alert’. They were the ones who taught him how to react. Don’t get caught, be careful, find safe shelter. As a kid they’d always taken shelter in the fire room—the cinder block enclosed space that housed the water heater and furnace. That room had survived; why hadn’t his parents gone there?
He should have been here, should have been stronger. If he’d stayed, he could have made sure they survived. Instead he left, left to find a more accepting place. Too late he learned family acceptance meant more than anything.
Tires crackled on the gravel behind him, but he didn’t care. No one could do anything to help. He’d failed the two people who never ceased to love him. They never judged him or made him feel wrong or bad or unnatural. They stood by him when he needed them most, and he repaid them by leaving them to fend for themselves.
“Orin Merritt?” The voice teased him with a familiarity he couldn’t place. The black boots and sheriff’s pants didn’t help. He didn’t know anyone here anymore.
“Yeah.” His own cracked voice sounded foreign. Distant. “Who’s… who’s asking?”
He felt a gentle touch his on shoulder. “Thomas. I’m with the sheriff’s department now.”
The name registered, but his brain couldn’t connect the name and voice. He couldn’t bring himself to look up. Instead, he stared at the splintered piece of wood in his left hand.
“Are you okay?”
Orin wanted to shout that he wasn’t okay, that he’d never be okay again. But he didn’t. “I’m fine.”
The silence continued, but the deputy never moved his hand. A breeze pushed leaves across the rubble and kicked up a bit of dust. Orin concentrated on the tracks he’d been told marked where they’d pulled his parents from the remains of their home. Dirt swirled in little eddies around him, and when the wind shifted it stung his eyes.
Blinking to clear his sight, he started to cry again. The finality of what he saw filled his vision even though he closed his eyes. His head drooped and the wood slipped from his fingers as his hands fell lifeless to his sides.
“Orin, I’m so sorry. Your parents were good people.”
Through the haze of grief, he nodded to acknowledge the condolence. The deputy knew him—knew him well—but he couldn’t focus his thoughts enough to remember how. Clearing his eyes, he finally turned toward the speaker, and when he saw the face, he fell back and tried to crawl away.
The brown hair was cut shorter and had receded some on the sides. The shoulders were broader, and the face had lost its childlike look, but he recognized the man. Thomas Kennett: Sheriff’s Deputy Kennett, now.
“Stay back.” He searched frantically for something to grab.
“Orin, what the…?”
“Just stay away.” He felt something round and hard and pulled a piece of copper pipe, waving it in front of him. “Can’t you just leave me alone? I’m… I’m…”
“I’m not here to hurt you, Orin. Another deputy told me you made it to the… here, and I came to check on you.” Deputy Kennett took a step closer and Orin shoved the metal tube out. “I’m… I just want to be sure you’re all right.”
“All right?” A nervous maniacal laugh ripped from his throat. “No, I’m not all right. I lost… I lost…” He dropped the pipe and just shook his head. “I lost everything that mattered.”
Orin teared up again and fought to keep them away. Thomas Kennett had bullied him, called him every imaginable derogatory name. The same Thomas Kennett who had also been his best friend from the time they could walk until middle school. He was one of the main reasons Orin left. Now he had a badge and a license to do as he pleased. Troubling thought…
A CLOSED DOOR is also a part of the LOVE, LOSS, LAUGHTER & LUST Anthology