For a moment he can almost deceive himself in believing he never left his porch and his bottle for a short and painful car ride.
Ah, if it was only the car ride... It was all this, this ruckus, these people invading his self appointed solitude. Can't they understand he wants to mourn in peace? Himself with his ghosts, not with all the hurrying around, and eco this and green that.
Heritage Day meant one thing to him and one alone, and that's a monstrous hangover the following day, because of course She'd love this day. And of course her daughter would look like a mirror image of his most beloved ghost.
It didn't use to be this hard because as much as she still hated him, he was safe in the knowledge that She was safe and happy, making that foolish party for her children and raising them to be... well, not him, that's for sure.
But then they have to come and why, oh why must Katie be so much like her mother, all blond hair and bright eyes and righteous anger, like when she got out of the car a few hours before and he was left alone in the dark.
Like when She left, furious, blond hair swinging like knifes, leaving him in the shadows of the hallway for hours, just staring at that spot.
He still avoids that spot like the plague.
Whiskey burned down his throat as he silently asked himself why he never swallowed his pride and just picked up the damned phone. Even if she hung up on him, it would be better than this, this half living and all these years just eating him up, leaving him nothing but a shell, resentful and afraid, in that old carcass of a lodge, surrounded by decapitated trophies.
News still arrived all the way from across the ocean. That she was engaged, that she had married, had a baby girl and then a baby boy named Chase.
Chase, that wanted to change the world and who was truly, the most like his mother. Despite her flashes, Katie was her Daddy's girl, but Chase, that determination, that hope of change, that's all from his daughter.
Another swing and this time the hot night brings him the thought of his girl rotting beneath the earth, American earth. They couldn't even let her rest in her own land, cradle of the human race, all wild things and red dust. No, it had to be there, in the shiny and modern New World. Out with the old, in with the new.
He can't blame the man. Not really. His wife's gone. His baby girl! He has all the right to find himself a new wife, even a skinny American that wants to save the planet. Just not one that's a pale copy of his daughter. One that sometimes acts as if she's the one trying to make him feel welcome.
It slips their minds that he owns the place and that they are only there because he allowed it, and he sometimes regrets his momentary lapse, with these people trying to bond and grow closer as a family. A family! Under the same roof that saw his daughter grow and write her measures on the wall with those little clumsy fingers.
A thud marks the end of the evening, as the bottle slips from larger, more scarred fingers, but still the same. Same hands comparing, one bigger than the other, a small pink tongue peaking out and light eyebrows furrowed in concentration.
Eyelids close but all Art can still see is blond hair and bright eyes.