written by: Lenore Weiss
It was the end of August. Jennifer lived with her 12-year-old daughter. Her husband stayed on the other side of the city in a house that used to be theirs, but now was his. “He’s late,” Mimi said. She twisted the strings of her blue hoodie in one hand and stared into her cellphone. “He’s never late.” Mimi tucked the cellphone into her back pocket and threw a few books into a satchel. Sometimes Jennifer caught herself wondering whether Mimi blamed her for their separation, but remembered the day Mimi saw their new apartment with plots of red begonias and golden lantana. A miniature waterfall greeted them near the rental office of the development. “It looks like a resort,” said Mimi galloping around. “Ma, it’s so beautiful! I love it!” Ten minutes later, Mimi walked back into the kitchen to find her reading a magazine at the table. “He’s not waiting outside to pick me up.” She repeated her mantra from earlier. “He’s never late.” “Did you call him?” Mimi rolled her eyes like that was the stupidest thing she’d ever heard. “Yes, but he’s not answering.” She stomped her foot. “He’s never late. Ever.” Mimi grabbed the magazine from Jennifer’s and shook it in her face. “Don’t worry,” Jennifer said. “He never got up until after noon, sometimes later. It’s his medication.” Bryan had recently come home from the hospital where the doctors had tried to tell him if he didn’t stop drinking, he’d kill himself. Mimi paced back and forth. “Want me to drive you over?” Mimi nodded, yes, definitely yes. It took ten minutes to get crosstown. Jennifer pulled up to the curb. The plum tree growing in the parking strip was heavy with ripe globes with a mash of red smeared around its trunk. The neighborhood kids enjoyed having plum wars, throwing ripe fruit at each other. Jennifer saw the shadow of a bird’s wing on the pavement. They stepped inside. The air smelled like wet burlap. Jennifer walked into his room with Mimi. Jennifer saw the shape of his bulk beneath the covers. “You see,” she tried to convince herself. “There he is. He’s sleeping.” Mimi backed away and ran into the dining room. “No, he’s dead.” Jennifer pulled off the covers and touched him gently. “Bryan, it’s us. Jennifer and Mimi,” thinking their names had the power to awaken him. She looked at his fingers, his toes. They were blue, his body inflated, not the first time Jennifer had encountered death. The parakeet she’d chased around her parent’s living room that had smashed its beak against the wall, a few beads of its blood on the parquet; her father who had died in a hospice center, how he’d warned her about a room inside a room as though part of an espionage plot, and her mother, who survived one year past her father’s funeral but had dehydrated on an airplane. Death was wrestling her to the carpet. She ran to find her daughter.
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