The house was bustling with people. Children and grandchildren lingering around, I think because I was making pineapple kolachky that day. Little Richard, Amy, Virginia, Tommy, Bernie’s Boy, and a few others it seemed had decided that my kitchen was a better place to hang out than anywhere their high school friends were. It made me feel good seeing them all there, and I put that extra feeling into the pastries. Maybe it was too hot, that day in August, to be baking, but they loved my baking, and I loved their smiles. If there is one thing God and my life had given me that I was truly rich in, it was children. Children and grandchildren. It swelled my heart when they chose to be around.
“So, are you going for football again Tommy?” Richard asked.
“The doctor came to the house and checked my heart. He said I can’t play football anymore. But I am thinking that when I graduate, I’m going to join the Air Force.”
“I know, but I really want to work on, with, around or even fly airplanes.” He said enthusiastically.
The two girls nodded and then suddenly there was a boom like no one had ever heard before. It wasn’t the heater, it was a hot day. It could have been a car backfiring, but the street was pretty quiet. Everyone looked at each other, and then the boys separated checking different parts of the house.
“MAMA!” Richard yelled from upstairs. “MAMA!” We all went running, but they broke way to let me up the stairs first. There sat John, slumped over in the straight chair in the corner, a rifle holding his head up, red blood and pieces splattered all over the wall behind him. No thought came to my head except the mess I would have to clean. No thought came to my head. No tears came to my eyes. No thoughts at all. No sound uttered, not a whimper, not a cry, not a scream. I was blank. Void.
“Mama,” Richard filled the blackness with his word.” I look directly at him and still didn’t really see him.
“Mama, we have to call the police.”
I nodded and he went downstairs. There I was alone with John. No one entered the room. What could I say to him? What was there to say? Nothing. Just nothing.
It wasn’t long before I heard sirens, followed shortly by booted footsteps coming up the stairs approaching behind me. I still didn’t move, didn’t say anything, they just came in around me. There was nothing else I could do but get the Spic-n-Span and a bucket of water. I went to the water closet to get what I needed, but two of the men there already started taking care of it. I put the bucket and sponge down on the ground and just sunk down on the bed. These four men did their job very efficiently without even really speaking. They each knew what they needed to do, and I just watched them wondering what it must be like to do this as a job. Cleaning offices was a job, but it takes a special person to clean another’s blood and pieces.
I began to really notice my own breath. It flowed so easily. Like a soft river, not heavy, not shallow, but full. There was a peace about it, a calmness. Maybe I would collapse later, maybe I would cry later, but right then, I just had to take the pastries out of the oven, and keep going.