Chapter 31 continues

So far: Cloud the kitten comes home.

• • •

A few days after the funeral, I drove up to the cabin in my Toyota. The small brown box containing Richard's ashes was at my side.

He was the one who usually drove when we went to the lake together. He complained that I drove like an old granny. I drove the way I rode my bike, the way I took a walk. I strolled. There was always so much to see on the way up to the cabin — why go so fast that you missed the sights?

I liked to stop at a couple of antique shops that were along the way. If Richard was driving, his rule was I would be allowed to stop at one, but only one. He would wander around for about fifteen minutes, looking at old rulers and mechanical pencils, and then he would stand by the door and wait for me. I would feel him waiting and no longer enjoy my shopping.

But this time, because of the box in the car, I didn't want to stop. I would worry about the ashes. What if something happened to them? I felt a responsibility to get them to the cabin safely. I knew I wouldn't enjoy my browsing.

When I got to the cabin, I had to decide where to put Richard's cremains until I disposed of them. I decided on the kitchen counter, where he could watch me cook dinner.

At sunset I pushed off from the shore in a huge metal canoe that my father had bought when I was a kid. It weighed a ton, but it was nearly indestructible.

I weighted down the front with a couple of logs and sat in the back paddling toward the middle of the lake. I had brought a bottle of wine and a couple floating pillows to stick behind my back.

Testing the water, I found it was still fairly warm. But I didn't want to go swimming tonight. The lake was Richard's.

When I reached what I guessed was the middle of the lake, the sun was nearly down. I opened the wine and poured myself a glass. I cried and drank a half a bottle of wine, which was about the same amount I would have had if Richard had been sharing it with me.

I had heard awful and funny stories of people trying to throw ashes into the ocean and having them get whipped back into their faces so that they ended up swallowing the last of their loved ones. But the night was calm, the lake a silver liquid mirror.

I knelt in the canoe, careful to stay balanced, holding the box in one hand and the bottle of wine in the other. I ceremoniously poured the rest of the wine into the lake. Sharing it with Richard.

I opened the box. Gray ashes with bits of white flecks. I put a finger in and touched it. I wet my finger and dipped it in again and stuck a bit in my mouth. Richard, Richard.

Then I drew back my pitching arm to scatter the ashes across the surface of the lake and flung my arm forward.

Instead of just the ashes, I tossed the whole box in.

And it floated on the surface of the lake.

Richard, resisting the final burial.

I floated in a canoe on the water, he floated in his box.

The sun went down. The box slowly sank.

I turned the canoe around and couldn't see the shore in the gloaming. It took me a good hour to find my way back to the cabin.

Tomorrow: Chapter 31 continues.