By Vincent Craig Wright

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After Scotty Dockery’s funeral his sister went around telling everybody he went to a
better place.

When she got to us Ronnie-Ann held her off with her sunglasses and cigarettes. “If he
wanted a better place he could’ve gone to Portland,” she said.

“But there he was at Cattleman’s every day for happy hour croaky,” she said like she
blamed Ronnie-Ann.

Ronnie-Ann’s aunt looked way off and said when she was little he told her heaven’s
streets were paved with baseballs.

She said she told him that didn’t sound like heaven and he said the way he understood
it the streets could be whatever you want and it seemed weird to her the same street
could be different things for different people and at the same time.

“So he’s up there singing croaky and drinking beer and tomato juice,” she said looking
at Ronnie-Ann longer than made me comfortable.

Later I asked if he really drank that and Ronnie-Ann said as long as she remembered.

“You going to tell me his song?” I asked.

“Wichita Lineman,” she said, “He thought that song was about him and nobody else in
the bar knew what it was except the song he sung.”

“Is that what he did? What a lineman does?”

“No. He drove the goddamn bread truck.”

“We should’ve played that song for his service.”

“Nobody thought anybody else’d want to hear it again so they called it inappropriate,”
she said, “and we got How Great Thou Art.”

“It’s better to remember it the way he did it,” I said.

“I never heard him sing, just heard about it.”

I asked her what she’d remember most about him then.

She said, “I forget more than I remember but Saturday mornings before mom would
wake up he’d bring me downstairs covers and all and I’d lay on his chest and watch
whatever I wanted while he closed his eyes and I’d touch the corner of his mouth and
he’d smile and I’d know.”

I asked what she knew.

“That there’s reasons. Things matter and that kind of shit.”

I told her he loved her.

She said out of the blue, “History, with famous people and all, always felt like a story
that didn’t happen but there’s a sadness even famous people feel and it makes sense
we try to remember something somebody did.”

I told her I didn’t know if anything was really the way we see it.

And I thought she was thinking about that but the next thing she said was, “I’m glad I
didn’t see my dad that way. Drunk fool singing some song nobody fucking knows. Who
has a dad like that? You retire, you fish and shit. Know what he says about fishing?
Leave them alone. Ain’t that some shit? They’re fucking fish. That’s what they’re for,
fishing. Instead I got a dad finishes out singing croaky and drinking all afternoon until
somebody took him home.”

“Must’ve been lonely,” I said.

“Yeah well go be fucking lonely,” she said, “that can’t be all there is to me having a

Three days later she downloaded that song and would make herself listen all the way
through and try to sing at it and cry then come look at me a long time in the face.

And here we are almost three years later and she’s about to go across the counter after
this guy wants to charge us eight hundred dollars for our car when it was going to be
three something and she was pissed about that because they’d already supposedly
fixed the transmission and that song comes on from the speakers in the ceiling and
she’s listening to it now more than what she’s saying and the guy don’t know of course
and I want to reach over for her hand but I know better.

The guy holds his glasses in his hand, looks through them that way. “Ma’am is there a
part of the bill you don’t understand?”

“Why it costs so fucking much,” she says.

He’s had it with her cussing but doesn’t want to make things worse. People learn that
pretty quickly with her.

She picks up her phone with the picture she took of her dad last time she saw him. He’s
at a window and the flash makes this bright spot on the glass like light all around him.

The guy has a picture of his family there on his desk and in his kid’s face is everything,
like one of those pictures of a star blowing up so bright and far away they need a
special camera, and like Ronnie-Ann watching her dad smile instead of cartoons, and I
think of my dad and for a minute, with Ronnie-Ann about to slap the shit out of this guy
to keep from crying, and him still thinking he’s supposed to rip us off, I see the world like
when I was little and every shine and brightness had a reason and I want this guy to go
be with his kid and Ronnie-Ann to see it’s just money and we have each other and you
never know, hell the sun could burn out, and right when I think the song will never end it
does and there’s this quiet before the Ford truck commercial, a sound we all heard I
know, and it’s the best we can do.

Vincent Craig Wright