"So, what now?"
"What do you mean? We bury her."
"That's it? You're good with that. We bury her..."
"What do you want me to say?"
"I don't know, she was our mother."
"She was no fucking mother."
"That's the whole point, though. She can't hurt us now. We can get some kind of ... what the hell do they call it ... closure?"
"Yeah, we'll close it by putting her in the ground and hoping there's a hell."
"That's it, Sis."
They walked up the steep path, puffing slightly. At 34 and 32, neither Sean nor Maddy were in 'sprinting up the hill' shape anymore. They knew the hill, and it knew them. It had even changed with them. Where once the hill had been an oasis of green, there were now stunted scrub bushes and empty beer cans. It was sad. It made Maddy especially sad. Sean was more concerned with his elevated heart rate.
When they reached the top, there was an awkward silence. The hill looked down over the whole neighborhood, including their mother's house. It was theirs now. Neither of them wanted it. They didn't even want to go inside. They'd sell it to a neighbor. Get rid of the damn thing. Exorcise the demons.
Sean lit a joint and passed it.
"Just like old times."
Maddy looked at the joint and frowned, then she shrugged and took it, inhaling deep.
"I thought I'd stop hating her when she died, Sis."
"Me, too. But now I just feel like I'll never get a chance to tell her how badly she screwed everything up."
"At least Dad got out."
"He fucking died, Sean. I don't know if that's a 'win'."
"Can you imagine if he hadn't?"
They sat in silence, passing the joint until it was hard to hold. Maddy ground it out under the heel of her running shoe.
"Do you think she knew?"
"How much we hated her?"
"Naw, Sis. I doubt it. She was fucking evil. And if she did know, it probably made her happy."
"Anything you want before we sell?"
"Nope. Literally, not one goddamn thing."
"I want her jewelry."
Sean cocked an eyebrow.
"Why? You gonna sell it?"
"Nope. I always wanted to see it ... touch it ... when we were kids. She never let me. I think 'things' were the only thing she loved. Especially the valuable shit. It's all that mattered to her. I'm gonna throw it all in a fucking lake."
"Will that make you feel better?"
"I don't know yet."
"That's a good point. I brought some booze, want some?"
"What the hell..."
The flask was filled with vodka.
"You drink too much."
"Yeah, I know. I do a lot of things too much."
"Yeah, I guess it was worse for you, huh?"
"Maybe. Different. She didn't ... she hurt you in different ways."
Maddy lifted the flask.
"To Mom. Rest in misery, you sadistic bitch."
Sean laughed, and then they were both laughing. Bright-eyed laughter that lived around the corner from sadness. It had been like that as long as either of them could remember. Laughter and tears. Both important.
They started back down the hill. They walked around the shining neighborhood and looked at the houses. Same old houses. Most of the same people, older now. Maddy wondered if any of them knew, but she doubted it. Mom had always kept the crazy at home. No one ever talked about it.
They saw a figure approaching through the darkness. An old man. Then they saw the little dog. Mr. Johnson. They had dreamed about living with the Johnsons as kids. Their house had always been filled with games and smiles. It hadn't been brittle. Their house had always seemed about to split down the middle.
"Evening kids. I was real sorry to hear about your Mom. We all were. If there's anything we can do, let me know."
Sean's mind raced. He couldn't think of anything to say. Maddy stepped forward and began to sob. The old man put his arms around her. It felt nice.
"It's OK, sweetheart. Everything will be OK."
"She wasn't how you think she was..."
The old man's face went blank, there was a sadness there.
"They never are, sweetheart. They never are."