This type of thing went on a for a day or two: Archie staring sightlessly at a spot on the far wall, stirring only to scratch himself, neck the gin or spit between his knees. And then I would pass him on the stairs, and he would rouse himself to say something fatherly or philosophical, like ‘Ten percent off at Bunnings today,’ if he had been listening to the radio, or ‘Never let them tell you that drink isn’t the answer…’ and other gems of cowpoke wisdom.
Perhaps the strangest thing that happened to Archie in the depths of his alcoholic fog was that pieces of his Classical education came back to him. He would wave at me two-fingered from the stone patio and mumble something that sounded like Dum Spiro Spero (While I breathe there is hope). But when he was sober he’d say, ‘What in hell. What do you mean Latin. I’m not a wop.’
On the third day he began to take the house apart. He gathered up everything that Nancy had left behind: odd socks and stockings, a mangled packet of Menthols, some violent smelling nail varnish to stop her biting her nails, her toothbrush, a bottle of Alka Seltzer, and a plastic bubble pipe she’d once hidden behind the CD stacks in a moment of festive whimsy, and tossed them in the fire. Then he extracted all of the Nancy Sinatra records from the collection (Boots, How Does That Grab You? Nancy in London, Woman, and For My Dad) and hurled them one by one from the top storey window into the algae-green faux lagoon far below. The last I heard of Nancy in London was a faint gurgle-plink, like frog spawn bursting.
Then Archie started on anything Nancy may have touched: a vodka glass which bore a trace of lipstick, a cushion where she had once left a long golden hair, the coffee table on which she once grazed her beautiful thigh, all smashed on the faux jagged rocks. (The whole time he was weeping like a woman, saying ‘Nancy, oh Nancy, Nancy…’)
Finally he took the poker and started hacking stones out of the fireplace, since Nancy had once fondly run her nail-bitten fingers over them to clear out the cobwebs. It was at this point I began to worry I might soon receive an alarmed letter from the Mies Van der Rohe Preservation Society and had to step in.
‘Dum spiro spero, pop,’ I said.
But he said, ‘Credula est spes improba,’ with great dignity. (‘He that lives on hope will die fasting’, which is the Shitsville family motto.)
Continued next post: I’m longing to linger til dawn, dear / Just saying this