Ashes in the Urn by Luca Penne
When I picked up the urn from the mantel, Dad protested “Put me down or scatter me with your mother.” Dad had been a traveling salesman his whole life and had never been home for more than a few days at a time. He’d pass through the house like a big wind on weekends, the doors slamming, dishes breaking, knick knacks falling off the shelves onto the carpet. I placed him down. I didn’t want to engage in that conversation as Mom had floated away months ago, some of her ash and bone clinging to rock, some catching on the wings of the birds poking on the shore, some clinging to the scales of catfish that surfaced for only a moment and some determined to make New Orleans, where she might mingle with the molecules of Louis Armstrong. I cradled the porcelain teacup with little red and blue birds, the teacup that was my sister, and smelled the steam rising from the chamomile and lemon. “Dad needs to get out of the house,” she said. When I sat down on the red chair, Nasser, my brother, bellowed in pain as if I had hurt him terribly, so I jumped back up. “You’ve put on a good 20 pounds. Why don’t you get some exercise and stop eating all the desserts.” I jumped back up. “Nellie’s right,” he said. “You can’t keep Dad in an urn. His real home is Memphis.” And then I walked back into the kitchen to get some agave for my tea and suddenly Mom was back, holding a bag of groceries. “Better get Dad. Somebody’s gotta pay the bills.” I ran outside with the urn, tossed the contents up in the air, and Dad showered over the herbs and flowers—dust, bone and light. When I returned, the teacup had a crack in it; my brother had broken a caster, and the grocery bags were still on the counter. And for once, the whole family was strangely silent.