After what happened the last time I rang the bell at my late son’s house, I was prepared for almost anything, however, I was not prepared for what I saw this time. Sam did not answer the door in his boxers, smelling of sex and rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He was on the couch, thumbing an x-box controller, exploding munitions. Natalie sat next to him with the other controller; together they were making the internet safe for anarchy. My daughter-in-law, Kim, had come to the door, saying, as she ought, “It’s good to see you again Mr Zade. How is your health?”
I might have had to return to the hospital, for my heart stopped then and there. I stood; mouth agape, eyes no doubt popping, jaw resting on the welcome mat at my feet. For once in my life, I was speechless.
“How do you like it?” the girls said simultaneously. Natalie, leaving Sam to the war, skipped to the door to get my reaction. She and Kim giggled as if they were schoolgirls, ten years younger than their actual age. Kim, a widow, who should have been in a dour black, beamed, and flung her hair over her shoulder. Natalie did a pirouette, gave her sister-in-law a one-armed squeeze and put their heads together.
“Waddaya think, Dad?”
They had all three dyed their hair bright red, Sam included, although he didn’t come to the door. He was busy fighting off the terrorists. Their hair was not a strawberry blond red, an auburn red, or a rusty red, but a stop sign red that arrested the gaze and left no doubt that it was a dye job.
“You’re… you’re all, red.”
“Pretty cool, huh?”
“Cool would not be the word I would use.”
“No, I know, we’re pretty hot,” said Kim, the recent war widow, a former blonde.
“Natalie, I loved your chocolate colored hair. It made my mouth water.”
“Well, now I have cherry hair. Don’t you like cherries?”
I do like cherries, especially chocolate-covered cherries.
“Why did you all dye your hair?”
“`Cause we’re family now and we wanted to look like family,” said Natalie.
“You’re family anyway, by marriage, even without the hair. Well, except for Sam. He’s not related to anyone.”
I couldn’t remember what Sam’s hair was like before. All I remember is his schtupping Kim, his best friend’s wife.
“We’re all related through Paul. We loved Paul. We dyed our hair for him.”
“I’m sure he’s impressed. Is this your big surprise?”
There was a massive explosion on the TV set. Sam stared blankly at it and, except for his thumbs working hard, never flinched. I supposed they teach you to have steely nerves in the Army.
“Oh, there’s one more thing,” said Natalie, slyly.
She and Kim giggled some more. I had not seen Kim since Paul’s funeral, and before that, when she went nuts at the airport and insisted on waiting for him to arrive, and had to be dragged from the gate by TSA and questioned for hours.
“We’ve got one more box,” they said.
“You’ve got a box?”
“Yea, for you.”
“You’ve got a box for me?” I didn’t have a clue what they meant, a box for me. A box for me like there was a box for Paul, even though there was hardly anything left of him to put in a box? There’s a box waiting for all of us, although we don’t like to be reminded of it too often. Well, they’ve got a box for me. I suppose they figure I’ll go next. The next funeral they’ll be attending will be mine. I wonder what strange grieving ritual they’ll invent then.
It still took me a while to gather up what they were saying. I took a guess.
“You want me to dye my hair?”
“Yea, come on, Dad. You’ll be family.”
“No, no, no, no. I’m an old guy, Fat, balding, middle aged guys do not dye what hair they have manic panic vampire red, or whatever; maybe Grecian formula to get rid of the gray. Is this what everyone did at the funeral after I left?”
After I was carted off in an ambulance, hooked to a dozen electrical leads, told it was all in my head, and admitted on my dear daughter’s say so, for observation on the psych ward. No, people don’t get released from the psych ward and go home and dye their hair manic panic vampire red. Or do they?
“No, we just did this today. C’mon, Dad, it’ll be fun.”
I scrutinized Natalie, “Did your mother dye her hair?”
“No, are you kidding. She’s too professional. She wouldn’t do that.”
I answered, with glee, “You’re on.”
Never was I more sure of anything.
“Let’s do this before I change my mind.”