THURSDAY: Everything is Backwards

BY DAWN WILSON

Copyright is held by the author.

12/23 8:06:03
The wood was smooth. There was no flag to cover it. There were no drums, no guns, and hardly anyone cried.

The hole in the ground gaped, ready to swallow. And forget.

12/22 20:37:50
The shops would close soon. Just one more annoyance. He’d known she wasn’t done with her Christmas shopping yet. Nothing wrapped, either. The holidays, and the joy, must go on. When looking into a casket, was the first thought ever one of joy?

Well, maybe not the first thought.

20:37:40
They’d been there for over 30 minutes and no one had thought to come up and say, “Sorry for your loss.” They weren’t, technically, family. So far as anyone knew, they were . . . acquainted, which was just the Midwestern way to say: no ring, no relationship.

20:37:07
“Why hasn’t his mother come over to say anything to you?”

“Mom—”

“She can be a bitch all she likes. Facts are facts. You never told me who Leigh’s papa was and I still treat her like my granddaughter.”

“Is that a hint?”

“Of course not. Darling. I wouldn’t do that to you today. I was merely stating that the woman is a bigger bitch than I am.”

20:36:08
“Hush. Don’t say that. Here, have a candy. Don’t talk until it’s all gone.” A jawbreaker from a leather purse. A sticky hand reaching.

20:35:40
“Hee hee hee, Grandpa, lift me higher!”

“Shh. Give Grandpa a hug and be a good girl.”

“This ain’t a church. I don’t gotta be good.”

“I’m putting you down now.”

“Nooooo! People die on the floor! Their blood all drains out—”

12/20 19:19:19
Holes perforating skin. One shot hadn’t been enough. The body held so much blood. Until the heart stopped. And then it wasn’t long before the body held very little blood at all.

18:17:16
Hand touching to skin, as if in a caress.

18:17:14
You could feel it coming.

Eyes snapped shut in anticipation. Air currents didn’t lie.

Wincing against the sound that would come. Those fingers, stretched flat, wrist cocked, elbow bent, swinging from the shoulder. It would not be light. It would not miss.

18:17:12
“Bastard.”

18:17:01
“—you.”

18:16:55
“You’re the only one who ever thought I loved—”

18:16:20
“What are you talking about?”

18:16:00
“It’s over.”

18:15:45
“—packing.”

18:15:10
Clothes wrenched from suitcase flung into closet down stairs bowling trophy thrown at window sniffles stop too angry to wilt.

“I have to finish—”

18:14:30
“—pregnant.”

“No. Please!”

“It came down to you or her. She got pregnant. That’s enough for me. Some men do right by their women. But you can only do right by one woman at a time. You lose.”

18:13:52
“What are you doing?”

“Moving on. Don’t make it harder on me.”

“Can’t you talk to me?”

“Nothing to say. Leena’s—”

:30 :29 :28 :27 :26 :25 :24 :23 :22 :21 :20 :19 :18 :17 :16 :15 :14 :13 :12 :11 :10

18:15:10-18:17:16
Counting down the fateful moment in rewind because it gets stuck in the head and replays forward, backward, skipping and choosing its moments as if time isn’t a line.

Nothing is linear. That’s why it hurts so much. It ends when it’s supposed to keep going.

18:15:10-18:17:16

181510-181716

181510181716

:10 :11 :12 :13 :14 :15 :16 :17 :18 :19 :20 :21 :22 :23 :24 :25 :26 :27 :28 :29 :30
That was the moment hysteria took over, when it was clear there was to be no talk no discussion no reasoning just action always fucking action and no logic to the motions. Just desperate hands grasping the grey fabric suitcase with the floral print and trying to be part of the action and not part of the past. Snorts and sniffs. Huffs and grunts. Cloth tore. She threw his belt into the closet door and the sound was good, but his t-shirts made no noise, like he was already gone, and so she pulled out his priceless bowling trophy from its wrapping of soft shirts and flung it at the window hoping something would break, like the silence in her head.

“I have to finish packing. It’s over.”

Yes, it was, but what? “What are you talking about?”

“You’re the only one who ever thought I loved you.”

The noise in her head was deafening. “Bastard.” It was the noise of the slap of four seconds into the future already echoing in her ears so hard they rang. She could feel the stubble on his chin on her palm before it hit and both their eyes were clenched shut in the anticipation that this was how it had to end. You had to hurt everyone in order to move on or there would always be a residue clogging up your tear ducts and your hopes wouldn’t flow.

19:19:19 19:19:19 19:19:19 19:19:19 19:19:19
The future doesn’t sneak up.

19:19:19
The future doesn’t wait around.

19:19:19
The future doesn’t give a damn.

19:19:19
The future doesn’t exist yet.
There was an alternate side to 18:13:00-18:17:00. Four minutes that could have changed the world but didn’t because the words got clogged and even if they were said they were too hiccupped with fear and ringing ears to be said in a common language that could be heard. Something beside the wails and clutching fingers.

18:13:45
The moment that the sandal touched the top stair and she saw the suitcase. If only she’d taken that final breath to fill her lungs after the stairs had emptied them. Maybe then the blood wouldn’t have rushed to her skull and flooded her eyes so she could only see the pinprick of him leaving and only hear the worst of it, what she already feared he’d say.

Never question a man in action. Just spit it out, rush onwards so it hits him and stops him flat.

18:13:52
“What are you doing?”

“Moving on. Don’t make it harder on me.”

“Can’t you talk to me?”

“Nothing to say.”

18:14:30
“I’m pregnant.”

19:19:18
Time isn’t so convenient.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Try again.

There’s no allowance for multiple moments, second chances, not so much as an echo.
There are no words after 18:17:12. Just a fallen bowling trophy left behind. Abandoned clothes. As if there’s nothing worth taking into a future where there are no imaginary friends.

18:17:16
Hand touching rough skin, not in caress, hand and cheek both reddened, as if those four inches can cry for the whole body. The only echo is not speech but the sound of the slap, echoing together so that when taken 18:17:16 on top of 18:17:16 with a background of a thousand alternates of 18:17:16, the countdown becomes applause.

If you let it play out from here until the end, you would find a different body in the coffin.

The most important parts, not said.

When 19:19:19 rolls around, the morgue is going to have to throw away your clothes anyway.

19:25:21
“Mommy?”

12/22 20:35:42
“This ain’t a church. I don’t gotta be good.”

“I’m putting you down now.”

“Nooooo!”

20:42:20
“It’s about time you got here. You look like hell. Who is that?”

“That’s . . . Leena.”

“You brought a date to your girlfriend’s funeral?”

“No . . . see, um, I—”

“The pastor wants to talk to you about personalizing the message tomorrow.”

“I . . . don’t have a lot to say.”

“He wants a name for the baby. They’re going to put it on the headstone. At least acknowledge it existed.”

“Baby?”

“The very thought of having two kids out of wedlock must have—”

“What—”

20:44:08
“Hey. What’s that cut on your face from? It looks like Mommy’s ring.”

“It’s . . . nothing . . . kiddo.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“What is it, sugarplum?”

“Are you going to be my new daddy yet or aren’t you?”

20:45:00
A priest in black, grave of face. “If everyone will be seated, I’d like to say a few words.” He said them, then latched the casket, aluminum and highly polished, so nothing more (words, moments, afterthoughts; truths, corrections, apologies) could get in.

 

 

2 comments

  1. Mary Steer

    I get glimpses of what Dawn Wilson is trying to do here, but for the most part I just found the format distracting. It doesn’t serve the story as well as it hopes to. That being said, some parts work brilliantly. I love this phrase:
    “hand and cheek both reddened, as if those four inches can cry for the whole body”
    and what follows, about the repetition of the sound of the slap turning into applause.

  2. Pingback: What direction are you traveling when you’re inside-out? | Mine Own Oxymoron

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