Prove your humanity: 8   +   10   =  

I saw a flame on the water a couple of miles out. The Coast Guard found John the next day, washed up on a small island. They pulled the plane and two more bodies from the bottom of a deep channel.

The burial service was in California. The hearse drove away toward the airport.

***

Jeff wrapped his car around a pole at a spot where the road curves slightly and can catch you if you’ve been watching the highway for too long, particularly if you’ve been taking pills.

He lived for a while in a helicopter on the way to the hospital.

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I whistled but Rascal lay still. Blood pooled around his head.

The grass didn’t grow back for almost a year.

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Vera smiled and laughed, tubes coming out of her arms, holding her stomach in pain.

She stopped breathing around dawn. My father held her hand before they took her away.

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Two strange dogs in the barn. One had blood on its collar.

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The mosquitoes bit through our clothes as we sat on the runway.

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We filled the waiting room.

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I never figured out which telephone pole he hit.

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We took shots, leaning on the railing over the bay. The food was good and the music wasn’t bad and the moon was low and small.

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We sat on the porch, talking about sackcloth panties. She rocked in the white chair with the peeling paint, looking out at the field.

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He laughed and slurred his words.

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We looked out the windows at the saltwater marsh below.

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I spent all day digging a grave in the pasture, at the edge of the trees, where the sunlight falls early in the morning, so he would know when to come home.

I dug for a while and put him inside, but the hole wasn’t long enough and his neck bent against the dirt. I dragged him out by his front legs.

The wooden handle of the shovel snapped and I went to the barn to find a new one. The cows circled around him, their heads low. They ran away when I came back.

***

A woman screamed in the police station. I had to walk around the block to get it out of my head.

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The Animal Control agent said she needed to see the wounds. I pulled back the sheet. His face was covered with ants and the veins in his neck stuck to the ground.

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She told me that her father left the house whistling a sad song the day her grandmother died.

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He juggled knives in the kitchen. His pregnant wife gave him disapproving looks from the couch, but I was on the linoleum floor, looking up, awed by the spinning blades.

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We spent Christmas Eve at the strip club, sharing lap dances from two women with fake breasts.

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I drank beer and played guitar and he lay next to me, our bodies flattening the waist-high grass.

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She sang Cherokee songs. The train’s coming, she translated.

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A picture of us lying in the yard, his paw around my arm.

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A picture of us in the back of the plane.

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A picture of us smoking cigarettes, cropped out for the slideshow.

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A picture of us smiling, eyes closed.

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A service in a small church next to a field of strawberries. A pastor staring at me during the prayer, asking people to come forward.

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The ground packed in. The sun behind the trees.

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Sweat stains on black suits, fresh dirt, dark, the day so humid.

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His mother told me I could have some of his ashes. There would be seven pounds.

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I read the passage and followed the ceremony but wasn’t sure where to stand. Outside, I hugged my uncle for the first time since I was a child.

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His friends swore and cried at the podium and I didn’t stay for dinner because the church was too empty and the tables were too long and the dishes were too white.