Easter always smelled like eggs when he was a kid.
Today smelled like old people. Like mothballs and hair spray and frail hugs and fried chicken and macaroni and cheese in the fellowship hall. Today smelled like misery.
"Take it. What am I going to do with it?"
"All of it?"
There was too much to carry: the wreckage of a lifetime, a collection of scrap iron and kindling with meaning only for the man who now lay in the ground. Each piece stung, reminding him of his loss. He remembered as a child thinking what it would be like to inherit some of these—pieces of history, each with its own tale—and he thought how stupid he had been.
He took the one with the horse on it. The others he would come back for, or he would sell. They would be worth something to someone.
He took the one with the horse on it, and he took a dozen gaily colored eggs from the fridge. Who had given these? Who thought the grandkids would be invited to this occasion? He could not fault a generous heart for hoping, but neither could he bear the sight of them. He put them in the passenger seat next to the fringed leather case, and he drove to the police department.
The cop shop. He remembered mowing this lawn. There was a sprinkler head set too high in the northwest corner; it got cut off at least once each summer. How many years had it been?
"Sorry about your dad," said the clerk at the window.
He signed his name and took the key and drove out across the countryside. A trail of dirt soared into the air behind him and gravel clicked against the undercarriage of a car that had never been here before, filling him with shame. Every car needed to know dirt roads like these. A man needed to remember them.
He set the eggs on a hillside behind rows of thick, frayed steel cable. No one used those. The hill was covered with shards of white chalk, weathered by a shattering rain of lead. He lay the eggs among the broken white stones, and he drew a deep breath. Dirt and wind and sun. It didn't smell like easter here, either.
Judge Colt had a jury of six, but Judge Browning traveled with seven plus one when he wanted to. Seven and one to grow on. He clapped the steel plate and pulled, serrations biting at his fingertips. The one with the horse on it gave a satisfying whoop, rejoicing at his touch.
But then he couldn't see.
The eggs in their pastel warpaint swirled into a kaleidoscope of mocking color and though he blinked and wiped he couldn't make them be still. He couldn't make his hands be still. He couldn't make his knees be still. He wanted the horse to carry him away, let him leave this world and those eggs behind.
On his knees, he tasted grease and grime and steel and drops of water fell into the grass. His thumb rested against the ribbed crescent moon and he squeezed, waited for the break. He pulled harder, ready for his world to shatter like white stone.
"Up and off. Always up and off. Down and on. Make it like instinct."
Those, his father's words, left him broken on the short-shorn grass, drew a ragged sob from his throat that he prayed no one could hear.