We watched the game. Tennessee beat Florida State 23-16 the way they always will for eternity and hoisted the national championship trophy. I saw what I thought was the glint of a tear in my dad’s eye towards the final frames of the classic game. I thought reliving the glory of his beloved Volunteers brought on the moisture. I was wrong.
“This game always reminds me of Chase,” my dad slurred.
His statement made me go numb.
“It was about only two months after everything. I remember one of the reasons we were so glad they won was because we felt it might lift everyone’s spirits.”
“It’s funny how much a stupid game can actually do.”
“I know. It shouldn’t have.”
“It’s darker than you think.”
I didn’t really know how my cousin Chase committing suicide at age 13 could be darker, but I could tell my dad had more to say.
“There’s a lot more about that, we didn’t let on back then.”
My dad spat chew across the room, offended by the skepticism detected in my tone. My dad was not a liar, but he was three sheets to the wind.
“Yeah, really, Ramblin Man.”
“If you’re talking about how they found Chase, I found out. You and grandma never told me, but kids at school found out. I heard about it. Kid cut himself and jumped into a fucking pig pen. That shit gets out there in a small town.”
“That aint the half of it.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Why would a boy choose to kill themselves by getting torn up by a bunch of hogs when he had his own fuckin shotgun underneath his bed?”
My dad made a very, very good point I never thought of.
“I never really thought about it.”
“Hard to believe he killed himself if you do.”
“Did you ever ask mom if she thought that at all? If they looked into it?” I asked.
My mom and Chase was a tricky situation.
My parents never married. They just had a casual off-and-on thing for a few years which produced me and my younger brother Doug. I can’t really blame either of them for not wanting to be with the other. My dad was a raging alcoholic with a bad case of PTSD before they really even knew what PTSD was, and my mother was a flighty part-time hippy, full-time drug addict who would take off for weeks at a time without warning. Since my dad at least had the full-time job, Doug and I lived with him and my mom lived two towns over with an ever-changing parade of fiancés.
My mom hit it big when the richest of those fiancés finally married her and gave her life a very brief period of stability. It was during that period when her sister passed away at a young age and left behind an infant son, Chase, who my mother took in.
My mom always seemed to be thoroughly ashamed by the boring, trashy life she lived with my dad so Doug and I were rarely invited to family events on her side. Because of this, we only saw Chase a few times a year at Thanksgiving, Christmas, the occasional wedding or funeral. He was a sweet kid who I definitely saw my mom’s side of the family’s genes in but was a little too young for me to really connect with.
Honestly, I didn’t think about Chase too much before he died. It wasn’t until the news of him committing suicide rippled through the community that he took up much space in my brain.
I don’t really know if I was surprised or not that Chase killed himself at the time. I didn’t know him well enough to know if he was depressed or not. You could say I loved him in the good Christian way a cousin loves a cousin they see a few times a year, but that was about it. Regardless though, it was pretty shocking that someone as young as 13 did it and in a place like northwest Tennessee. It was the only thing anyone in town really talked about for about a month.
I only occasionally thought about Chase when people talked about suicide or if a celebrity of note committing suicide was in the news. Until my dad mentioned his suspicions about Chase, I hadn’t thought about him deeply since back around funeral.
“Maybe you should ask your mom about it?” My dad suggested.
My mom divorced her rich husband shortly after Chase died, took half his money and fled to Florida where she was probably sucking some new man, or men, dry. I tried to stay in touch with her, but it hurt more to try and remain in contact and have her act like I was some old co-worker or childhood friend she only barely cared about, so I just shut it down. We hadn’t talked in more than 15 years and I hadn’t looked for her in all that time. She could have been dead for all I knew.
I could tell my dad was hanging onto his last threads of waking energy for the night and I wasn’t far from sleep myself.
“Is the couch okay for sleeping?” I asked.
My dad flapped his lips a few times, but no words came out.
I sunk into the broken wooden bones of the frame of the ancient couch.
“Hey ramblin man,” my dad whispered from across the room.
“Maybe you should ask Tina McIntosh about the Chase thing? She probably knows more about that kid than your mom.”
“That’s actually a good idea.”