Fast Fiction

Here and There — by Monica Nawrocki

I’m the only one left by the grave.

What’s the point of being liberated from my body if I’m just going to get left behind at the cemetery? I look at the hole in the ground. It’s pretty big. I don’t know what comes next. God, or at least Morgan Freeman, should have shown up by now to explain things.

“Hey.” I kinda shout and wave my arms at the row of cars pulling away. Well, that’s not going to work.

But the procession stops. The back door of the front car opens and Libby gets out. She stands looking in my direction. How do I get to her?

And then I’m there. Ah, it’s the wanting, I note. I’m right in front of her and I wrap my arms around her and squeeze as hard as I can. After a long time, I release her and look in her face: I know she felt something.

I put my mouth close to her ear. Now, should I whisper or yell? I’m thinking I need to be, you know, louder, for her to pick up on me, but I’d hate to scream in her ear and scare the bejesus out of her if she’s already tuned in. I speak softly but clearly – more than a whisper but not so loud that it will hurt – no matter how much gets through.

“I’m here.”

She looks around, hesitant but alert. As though someone just yelled, “Look! It’s Mick Jagger!” and she’s searching but trying to look like she’s not. Her eyes are slightly brighter.

I look into the car and picture myself there and then I am. She climbs back in and I take her hand. It’s crowded but I’m just not interested in anyone else; they are familiar but out of focus.

Libby stares out the window, hoping no one will talk to her. Maybe I can help with that. I watch the fuzzy mouths. One opens to speak and I lay my hand over it quickly. It closes again. I keep the car quiet all the way home. When I have no mouths to stop, I rest my hand on Libby’s heart.

At the house, I feel a hint of joy to be home, but the opposite crackles around Libby. I take her hand and go inside with her. She excuses herself to the bedroom to lie down. As soon as her feet leave the floor, she begins to splinter. I imagine my hands being bigger, warmer, softer than they were in life, and I begin patting all over her body, keeping her fragments together. I touch her tears. I pat and stroke until she becomes still and quiet. Her heaviness surprises me.

I lay close to her side, so I can tickle her arm while I sing in her ear. By the third round of Bernadette, she is asleep, but it’s a sleep full of static and sharp images so I keep singing until it smooths out and peace like grandma’s quilt descends gently on our bed.

I keep humming and tickling, wondering idly what comes next. She stirs, whimpers. I lay my hand on her heart and melt the tiny, jagged icicles of pain with my Mickey Mouse hands. She settles and I settle more deeply beside her. I look at the dusty curtains we’ve been afraid to wash, in case they fall apart.

“They’re made of dust,” she laughed last week as she sneezed on the window. I’d asked her to open the curtains so I could see the sky.

I was so sick of this bed and now it feels so good to be in it again, free and whole. I snuggle in closer and there is no point of resistance. The memory, perhaps, has evaporated the boundary between us and I feel myself sink into her. A small burst of pure joy pulses through both of us. I feel us smile and I think, “I’m here” and she thinks, “I know.”
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Monica Nawrocki
Monica Nawrocki lives on a small island off the west coast of Canada with her partner. She earns her living as a substitute teacher, happily impersonating someone different every day. She is the author of two books and her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies across North America.