“Fuck Grant, you look awful.” Maurene moves towards Ben who is a well built, healthy looking and young man. He’s got to be a decade younger than Maurene, over six feet, with his head is bald, shaved clean with a razor. “What is going on here?” He asks. He is intimidating. In the few times we’ve met before he’s always been an overpowering presence and our mutual dislike of each other has kept things tense. I move behind my brother and father. Gary is doesn’t seem to notice, he looks like a deer caught int the headlights but Max is not impressed. I imagine he’s dealt with guys like this his entire life. Someone younger, stronger and with an attitude that betrays their ignorance of death.
“Ben, Maurene,” I say from behind my familial barricade, “this is my dad, Max.” The room softens slightly. For a moment Ben is the only stranger here and then the moment is gone.
“Mau,” Ben says, “They need to leave.” Maurene hesitates, she looks Max over and I can see the blood rising in her face. Even as a ghost my father has been a large part of our marriage. She never put it into words but I could tell that when I did something particularly stupid she would blame this man, or her imagined version of him. The path to the end of our marriage was steered in her mind by the issues Max left with me when he disappeared. Frank and Gil were petty criminals in our lives compared to him. And now she stood there looking at him and Max becomes a frail old man and I am ashamed that I am holding him as a shield between us.