Glaze by Alan Kennedy

I was going to take a break and have my lunch at De Angelo’s where there’s a special on Wednesdays 11 am to 2 pm, but then the lieutenant and some men carrying paper bags show up, and I have to change plans.  The lieutenant tells me I have to wait a little bit, so I say okay.  Emily always said—Be polite, Mitch.  But it’s already 12:30.   

Now we’re on the deck where I’d been working on Emily’s windows all that morning. That’s okay.  I go back to work. After a while he’s watching me work with the razor and the putty knife and so he says to give them over.  That’s okay too.  I sit back in the chair, thinking of what I’ll have on the ham and cheese. The lieutenant tells me it won’t be long.  He puts the tools on the deck near his chair.  Says he doesn’t want any accidents.

A few minutes later I remind him that I had been going out to lunch.  I tell him about the special.  He gives me a funny smile.  Don’t worry, he says. I hear my stomach make noises.

—I can hear your stomach growling all the way in here—Emily’d say, and then she’d start up dinner.  She was like that when we first got married.  I always said to her, I need my three squares.  And on the dot she’d get me a meal. Mac and Cheese with bacon. Tuna sub. Chili from Wendy’s. Then later, after things changed and we began owing money and not making enough, she’d get depressed and not cook so much.  Truth be told, I haven’t had a good meal in the three weeks since Emily went down the stairs.  

I’ve thought of asking about lunch again, but the lieutenant only sits in the deck chair I’d made a while back for Emily so she’d have a place to sit while we had lunch. The lieutenant just looks at me. Maybe he doesn’t eat lunch. Maybe he ate big at breakfast. Once in a while he checks his watch. Once, he went inside to see how they in the suits are doing with their paper bags.

I’d like to go back to work on the window, it would help the time pass. I’m what they call a deliberate type. This morning, like all the mornings I been working on the windows, I set up my folding worktable and clamped down the window.  (It’s the one from Emily’s side of the bed that looked out over her lilacs).  I had my paint can and brushes and can of mineral spirits on the newspaper near my feet.  I’m wearing my work boots with the old paint stains.  I had my tools lined up on the table neat before the lieutenant took them. First, I chipped off the old putty in the frame, removed the pins and the panes and then sanded down the rough spots with short steady strokes, then I put a nice layer of primer on the bare wood. Then after the first dried, I’d replace the panes, and the pins, and lay in the glaze with a caulking gun.  I hold the glaze to one-eighth of an inch like they told me at the hardware store.  If the lieutenant hadn’t stopped by for his visit, I’d be starting the next window—the bedroom one that faced east toward the town and the cemetery—where they put her more than two weeks ago.

Emily’d be fixing breakfast—Jimmy Dean sausage and eggs and home fries—and call into the TV room:

—Mitch, you need to fix my windows.  Save us some money—

Or she’d be in the kitchen fixing American chop suey for lunch:

—Mitch the draft is real bad from the windows over the sink.  

The more she complained, the more I kind of got frozen against the idea.

The last time, she was at the head of the stairs after her shower:

—Mitch, are you ever going to fix my windows?

Not a word about lunch, and it had already turned 2 o’clock.

I was right behind her when it happened. I remember that big mouth surprise when she saw I was so close. I could see the molar implant (lower right) she’d got six months ago. Then surprise again when she was on her way downstairs to where she ended up with her neck wedged tight by the front door.  I sat down on the landing for a while looking at her. It was kind of a sad moment for both of us, but it was quiet, too. I ate alone that day. Tuna melt from Friendly’s.

The ambulance got here and I had to fill out papers, then Emily got hauled away in her bathrobe, and I had to follow to the hospital in the car. I stopped at the Home Depot to get the glaze and the caulking gun and the glazing tool, because I had started to think about doing the windows while sitting on the landing and Emily so quiet. I have been glazing since then. I kind of wish Emily wasn’t dead anymore, just to show her.

The lieutenant first came by two weeks ago last Friday evening, the day after the service. Said he was on his way home from the station. He asked about my grief. Then he asked again what had happened when Emily went down the stairs. I showed him the spot by the front door where she’d ended up. I got down on the floor to show how her head got all bent over at the neck and how she went out slow and steady like a balloon with a pinhole leak. He asked if she was prone to falls or accidents. Then he asked where I had been standing. I got up off the floor and we went to the top of the stairs where I had been when it all happened. He looked around at the upstairs rooms and nodded to himself once or twice. He asked about the walls where I hadn’t got around to patching up some holes, and then said he was done and said we could go down the stairs. He said I should go down first.  

Maybe I never got to the windows before Emily went down the stairs because I don’t like to be pushed. I like to come up on a project slow, kind of sneaky, but once I get the idea to do it, I’m sure to finish it. May take time, but sooner-later, it’s just going to get done. Period.

—There are 40 windows in the house, Mitch. You could do ten a year—.

Of course she started saying that a while ago, when things were nicer with us, and she liked to cook more—Hamburger gravy with mushroom and onions and garlic potatoes. Pecan pie with fresh whipped cream.

Last Thursday was Emily’s big day. Her family came down from Vermont and New Hampshire. There was a mass, and the burial, and then a social in the church basement with little sandwiches that she had liked from D’Angelo’s. I liked the ham and cheeses best, but I guess a lot of the family did too, so I didn’t get more than two little ones, having to stand around in my wedding suit and meet her relatives all over again. They wanted to come to the house, but I told them I had to work on the windows.

This is the lieutenant’s third visit since the burial. He says he probably won’t be coming to the house any more. I tried not to look happy about that, but truth be told, I was.

When the men inside the house finish up, the lieutenant says we’re going. The lieutenant tells me I don’t have to say anything. About what? I’m thinking, but then I wonder if I’m not supposed to remind him about DeAngelo’s, either. So I ask. I tell him it’s way past the special time, but that’s okay. It’s on the way. He nods like he’s heard me, but doesn’t really answer.

He’s making sure I don’t bump my head getting into the backseat.

He backs out of the driveway and starts down the street. Outside the car I see the neighborhood houses going by. The sun twinkles on the windows.

We head toward the highway. I ask the lieutenant could he open the window, but he laughs again. Then I look at my hands, locked up together. I hold them up side by side on the thick glass and notice the fingers with little bits of paint and drying glaze on the tips and under the chewed and broken nails. My hands are steady when I press the glass, but when I pull them off they’re shaky, and so I do that for a while, back and forth and I spread my fingers and look through them at the lieutenant.

I don’t think he’s remembering about the D’Angelo’s, so I knock on the glass. Next exit I say. He looks at me, and then watches the highway. I’m looking through my open fingers. Tummy’s growling, I say, louder. He doesn’t look this time. I know he’s not paying attention. So I tell him the menu. I know it pretty good, and think there should be something he’d like. Meatball subs, and steak and cheese, Lobster roll, tuna with bacon. Chicken salad, and my favorite ham and cheese with pickle. He looks surprised that I rattle it off, I suppose, but he only says to me, you keep it quiet back there, and just keeps on driving.  

I’m hungry, I tell him.

I’m getting nervous, but I don’t tell him that part.  

—Now don’t you go getting nervous on me, again, Mitch, she’d say, and she’d look at the walls with the holes that needed fixing.

So now I’m pounding on the glass and telling him the menu again and again, and that’s when I heard it. I think maybe it’s the glass, like it’s cracked, and immediately look away, and close my eyes and start to feel bad, and sorry that I did something wrong, but then when I open my eyes and see the glass is not broken, I feel better.

—It’s okay, Mitch, Emily’d say in that shaky scared little way she had some times. It’s okay.

You’ll be okay. Okay?

But right in front of me on the glass between me and the lieutenant, is the smeary blood and I know he’s seen it, cause I can see his look and he looks real surprised, but I could tell him that Emily’d just Windex it, so not to worry.  

—Don’t you worry, Mitch, you just stay easy, and I’ll take care of everything, and we’ll both be okay.

The lieutenant’s eyes look big in the rearview, and I think he’s watching me more than he should because he’s driving, so I smile big just to show him I’m okay, and to relax and watch the road, because I didn’t want to cause him to have an accident.  

He’s missed the exit. I turn and watch it go by the back window. When it’s really gone, I look back at the glass, and at the smeary blood, and then I look at my hands and see the right one that is kind of bloody and there is a white bone poking through the knuckle skin and I lick some of the blood that keeps coming out there, and then I think of Emily who can’t be here today on account of what’s happened to her, and I kind of miss her, cause she’d know what to do about it. About everything.

Then I hear somebody crying.


Alan E. Kennedy is originally from the Pacific Northwest and now lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Connie, a photographer. He has had two stories published prior to “Glaze”, one in Aethlon and one in Beloit Fiction Journal.