6   +   1   =  

death

Thoughts and Prayers

These days we still don’t stop for death. Instead, we pass by and outside the window lining the suburban boulevard one tree gleams in the morning sun—the trunk wound tight in tinsel...

Mary, Mary

When Mary was executed, the first cut of the ax missed her neck and hit the back of her head. The second cut hit her neck, but didn’t slice all the way through. A stubborn strip of flesh held her together until the executioner sawed through it. The doctor placed his hand on the top of my head. Be careful with this, he said. There’s really not so much holding it all together. The next day, I packed up and left school. I knew that at some point I’d have to go back and finish, either this school or a different one, but it didn't matter. I already knew it would never feel over.

Two Stories

We had mistakenly received a sweater in the mail. It came in a plastic bag. It was red with two oblong holes. It could have belonged to a boy or a girl. I stretched it on the floor and tried to imagine the body that would fit inside. I had difficulty picturing the child’s smile. I could imagine the face, only there was never a mouth, like it had been swept away by the flames after the school bus tumbled down the ravine...

A Sound Heard By Heaven

Thomas didn't answer. He had, in fact, booked the trip after his sister found him curled up in the tub at his new apartment, shivering under a shower that had run cold. She called her husband, a self-styled amateur psychologist with a graduate degree in botany, and the two of them staged an intervention.

I Know Where You’ve Gone

Didn’t I make a nice spread for all of you? I did. I watch you, with your temporary names and bodies, mingle and hover and talk about why you are here and who you are here for, or about other things. Sometimes you shut your mouths. That’s fine too. I put cocktail napkins in your hands, and you cradle finger foods. I gave you coffee and tea, wine and beer, pastrami and challah and babka. Two babkas, in fact—one cinnamon and one chocolate. It was all there waiting for you when you drove here in ones and twos and threes and fours from the field of stones, where we lowered her into the ground, all of us together, where I will keep her and she will not mind the cold.

Four Funerals

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.