The house is too silent. Garland stands at the screen door staring across the dry, fallow front field. It’s hot outside. Hot enough for old thirsts to tempt him. But there is no beer in the fridge now. None for nearly two years. But, boy, this is a day made for beer, Garland thinks. He lets his eyes drift close and remembers the wonderfully cold bite in his throat after the first sip, so familiar back then. Garland swallows reflexively from the muscle memory earned after so many years, so many drinks.
A cooling breeze pushes across the porch, strong enough to cause the swing to begin swaying, drawing Garland’s attention. The fond memory of cold beer suddenly sours and he fights not to vomit. He squeezes his eyes against the burning in his gullet, in his stomach. In his heart.
When he opens his eyes again, he’s unable to keep from watching the chipped and peeling swing, hazed through the fine mesh of the screen, slowing and slowing but never settling. Behind him the house is still and silent. Too silent to keep out the sounds in Garland’s head—the rattle of the swing’s chains, the loud crack that followed, his wife’s screams as he carried the baby into the house.