General Fiction posted August 29, 2016


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
True thriller

The Collector

by DonandVicki


"Hello, Don Ruch?"

"Yes, this is Don," the voice sounded familiar.

"This is Bill O'Brian, your father's neighbor."

"Oh hi Bill, it's been a long time."

"Yes it has," he said sadly, "listen Don, I hate to be the one to bring you bad news but your father has passed away."

There was a moment of silence as I absorbed the information.

"Don?"

"I'm still here Bill, was it his drinking?"

"It's hard to say, his body is at the morgue in Toledo, he had been dead for awhile, the last time I saw your father was last Saturday as he was coming home from the garage sales with a load of stuff. He was a collector you know."

"I know only too well, Bill ."

"His body is at St. Charles Hospital in Toledo. Do you know where that's at ?"

"I can GPS it Bill. Thank you so much for calling, I will get a flight out as soon as I can."

"I have a key to your fathers house if you need it."

"Thank you Bill, I will get in touch as soon as I arrive in Ohio. "

I got a flight out of San Diego for a four hour flight to Detroit, I had a lot of time to reflect on my earlier life and our dysfunctional family. My father was a horrible alcoholic and a collector. A hoarder to be more specific. My mother was a loving mother but there was only so much she could stand and left my father shortly after I joined the Navy. She just disappeared, without so much as a goodbye or where she was going. My older sister left home about the same time, dad said she went to San Francisco and became a hippie. She got into drugs and was living in Haight Ashbury with a bunch of other hippies. He presumed that she was dead or homeless living on the streets.
It was my mother that I despised the most, how could she abandon my father when he needed help? I especially couldn't figure out why, at least, she couldn't stay in touch with me?

The plane landed in Detroit shortly after 4pm. I got my rental car from Budget rental and started the hour drive to Toledo. As I drove through the lush green fields and woods of southern Michigan and northern Ohio. I reminisced of the times that dad and I use to hunt and fish. Better, more innocent times. I remembered the warmth of my mothers smile and her home cooking.

I reached my father's house, much too late to go to the hospital. I would go to the morgue after a good night's sleep. I walked over to the front bay window and looked in. Junk stacked to the ceiling. The August heat and humidity caused the smell to escape the house and made me gag. I walked the few yards to Bill's house and knocked on the door. Several moments went by and I knocked again, I was just about ready to leave when an old man hunched over answered the door.

"Bill?"

"Oh my goodness, Don?"

"It's been quite a while Bill."

I could not believe how old Bill looked, it had been almost 20 years since I had seen Bill or my father for that matter.

"Would you please come in Don?"

"I would love to Bill, but it has been a long flight and a long day. I will come by tomorrow after I see my dad."

"Please do, I want to talk to you about your father and catch up on your ..."

"I promise I will," I could see tears welling up in his eyes, "I will." I held him close and hugged him.

"Hold on, before you go I have something for you."

Bill came back shortly with a key fob with a single house key.

"Here, you will need this to get into the house."

"That and a bulldozer. " I quipped.

Bill didn't smile but just said, " you have no idea."

I got a room at the Holiday Inn on route 20, about five miles from my fathers house and about ten miles from St. Charles . I had a fitful night, tossing about in my sleep. I tried to imagine what the next day would bring. I was fuming about my mother and sister how they could abandon my father when he needed help the most. Then it dawned on me that I had left him as well when I rushed off to join the Navy. I still recalled my father and mother with tears in their eyes as I boarded the train for boot camp at Great Lakes Illinois. I couldn't get away fast enough.

The next morning I drove to the hospital, I was met by a young patient advocate who led me to the morgue in the basement at St. Charles. It was a well lit, light green room with three stainless steel autopsy tables and stainless steel lockers at the far end of the room.

"Please wait here until the doctor arrives," she said, pointing to several chairs at one end of the room.

"Thank you but I would be more at ease standing."

She stood there nervously looking at her feet.

"You can leave if you want, I will be fine," I said.

"I'm sorry but it is against hospital policy to leave visitors unattended here."

To my relief, the doctor arrived and held out his hand.

"Are you a family member of the deceased?"

"I'm his son, his only surviving family member."

"I'm sorry for your loss," He said unemotionally, "do you wish to view the body?"

"Yes, please." I said nervously.

"I have to warn you that this will not be pleasant, the body is in the advance state of decomposition."

"I will be alright, I need closure, have you determined how he died?"

"Advanced alcoholism, he aspirated on his vomitus in his sleep. He also had cirrhosis of the liver."

I stood there stunned but certainly not surprised.

"Should we continue?" The doctor asked.

"Yes, please, let's get this over with."

The young advocate quickly left the room as the doctor led me to the vaults, he slid the vault open revealing a green body bag. He quickly unzipped the body bag just far enough to reveal my father's head. The smell took me by surprise and I barely had time to view my dad's bloated expression.

"Are you ok?" The doctor asked

"Yes I'm fine."

The doctor quickly zipped the bag closed.

"Will you be taking possession of the body?" He asked, "we have a cremation service here at the hospital for unclaimed bodies and situations such as this."

"That will be fine ." I said as my knees started getting weaker.

"I will escort you up to administration where we will help you with the details."

I left the hospital numb, not feeling much of anything. I drove the fifteen miles to my fathers house trying to figure out what I would do with the mess that I would be faced with. I arrived at the house and walked up to the front door and realized that the lock had been broken, probably the EMT's who had to force the door open. The place was an ungodly mess, junk and trash stacked as high as my father could reach. I had to force my way back to my fathers bedroom. The window in his room had been smashed and removed. I assumed this was how the emergency crew removed his body.

"Don?"

A familiar voice called out from the other room.

"I'm back here in the bedroom Bill."

" I'm sorry Don, but I saw you pull up, I hope I am not intruding."

"Of course not Bill, thanks for coming over, I could use some company about now."

"Did you get to see your dad?"

"Yup"

"Was it pretty bad?"

"As bad as you can imagine."

"It was the odor coming from this house that caused me to call the police."

"You did the right thing Bill."

"Your dad was holding this when they found him." Bill picked up a picture of my mother sitting near the bed.

I took the picture and as I looked at my mother's face I saw a note folded and tucked into the frame. I took the note and opened it , all it said was 'I really did love her, look under the bed.'

With some difficulty I removed the mattress and pushed it out the open window. There was nothing under the bed but an old filthy throw rug. I pulled the rug aside and noticed that there was a sheet of plywood covering a hole in the floor. I pried up the plywood and was stunned. There were two mounds of dirt. The mounds were surrounded by old burned candles . At the head of one mound was a picture of my sister and the other grave, my mother's wedding picture. I frantically started digging and soon found my mother's skull with some of her red hair still there. My heart stopped when I looked further under the floor boards on the other side of my mother's was an open grave. No wonder my father wanted me to visit more often. I laid down on my mother's grave and started to cry uncontrollably. 'She never left me after all.'


















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