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Today's Story by Darren Callahan

We’ve brought this on ourselves, she says.

City of Human Remains – Chapter 33



She disintegrates into tears on Ynez’s shoulder and soaks her neighbor’s sweater.  She heaves and shakes.

There, there.  There, Lucy.  There, there.

Ynez is good at comforting.  This is the fifth sweater Lucinda Lamarche has wrecked.  All week, Lucinda has eaten Ynez’s casseroles, stolen her flash editions, bothered her with questions, and abused her Eye Dial to stay connected with the police.  Lucinda asks favors while at the same time apologizing for her husband’s antiquated disposition.  Lou hates the modern world, she explains as she receives instructions from Ynez on how to properly register Matthew’s name in the police database.  To anyone who will listen, Lucinda has declared her husband is better suited to the last century, a fact she’s known since the beginning of their 13-year marriage.  Over time, Lucinda has become a willing accomplice in their hermetic isolation.  With the disappearance of their son, however, it has become a frustrating divide between her and vital information about Matthew.

Lou’s coming home, reports Lucinda as she raises her sopping chin.


Is he dead?  Is my son dead?

Now what makes you think that?  You didn’t think that yesterday, did you, Lucy child?  (Ynez calls Lucinda ‘child,’ even though Lucinda’s 5 years older.)

They found a murderer.  A murderer!

Ynez looks across Lucinda’s apartment to her husband, Pieter, who sits uncomfortably in a tiger-striped chair, his finger hooked into the grip of a half-drunk cup of coffee.  Say something, Ynez telegraphs with her eyes.

Pieter asks his wife, Don’t you have to go to work now?  You don’t want to be late.

Ynez bristles at these words, but then glances to one of the many clocks mounted over Pieter’s head.  The entire wall is clocks, as is every wall in the Lamarche home.

Yes, I should get going.  Ynez holds Lucinda upright and looks her square in the eyes.  Will you be okay?

Lucinda nods.  Lou will be home soon.  Go, go.

Pieter will stay with you.



Lucinda gives a last stiff hug and spills a few more tears before letting go of Ynez.  You have been so helpful, you know?  You know that, don’t you?

Anything you need, offers Ynez.  She stands, smiles, straightens her nurses’ uniform then kisses her husband’s cheek.  She leaves with a sympathetic face and a smallish wave.  I’ll be home in six hours.  And I’ll keep glued to the news, let you know what they say.  Ynez leaves the small apartment, filled with its clocks and sadness.

There is a long silence; all that can be heard are tick-tocks.

Think how different things would be for us, remarks Pieter, if all this hadn’t happened.

I don’t want to talk about it.

We’d be breaking it to them now.  We’d be on our way to Rio.  To be alone for once.  Be together.  Not care if we’re seen kissing.

Rio was your idea, not mine.

Oh, but the rest of it—

I don’t want to talk about it!

Lucinda buries her face in the sofa cushions.  Part of her wishes Pieter would come and sit beside her.  A greater part wishes he might stay far away.  Even go home.  She’s been glorious, she tells him, your wife.  You know that?  Ynez has been really kind to me, to us.  How can you say she’s cold?  She’s nothing but heart and—

She’s a nurse, he explains as if it’s nothing.  She is like that when there’s trouble.  But when no trouble…when things are perfectly normal…she’s a gray sheet.

What have you been lately but the same?

I’m hurt that you would think that.  This whole business has been nails in my fucking skin.  If only you came to me for comfort.  I could serve you better than Ynez.  But you’re so afraid to be revealed.  You don’t want people to know we’re in love.

There’s no one around now.  You’re just sitting there.

Pieter stands from the chair.  Delicately, he puts down his coffee.  Oh, you want me there, do you?  He takes a step in the direction of the sofa.  She knows what he’s thinking.

Lou will be home soon.

There’s traffic.

Pieter, no.

I want you.  We haven’t touched in days.

Jesus, Pieter…

He’s on his knees, cupping Lucinda’s breasts over her wrinkled blue blouse, trying to get a finger in between the buttons.  His lips are at her neck, his teeth nearly biting her.

I can’t stand it, he pants with hot breath melting her skin, you know this is torture for me.  We were so close to leaving!  So.  Close.  Then to have you taken away!  He kisses her mouth, holds her wrists to the sofa.  It’s like I’ve lost you in a storm.

Pieter, Pieter, she struggles and lifts his right hand from her thigh.  His erection brushes her leg.  Please, Pieter.

A clock sounds noon.

A second clock chimes, faraway in another room.

Soon, they’re all going, all 27 of the clocks in the Lamarche household, their discordant symphony distracting her, burying Lucinda’s protests in an avalanche of announcement.

She knows Pieter is a creature of desire.  He needs this, knows he’s not like this all the time, so aggressive.

And who is Matthew to him?

Her lover doesn’t really know her son.  He’s played basketball with him at the neighborhood court; he knows his face has, heard her stories of motherhood, has watched recordings of the boy’s first steps, but Pieter is not Mathew’s father.  Right now, to him, her son is an obstacle, who has wrecked his mother’s happiness by disappearing on the eve of their elopement.

Fuck him, fuck him, Lucinda’s mind calls, her sadness replaced by anger at the world for stealing this.

Pieter has a finger between her belly and her skirt snaps.  She relaxes and lets him pull forward, opening the gap.  Fierce, unrelenting, he grabs hold of the waistline and pulls down her skirt to reveal her white panties and her pale, soft legs.  He doesn’t take the panties off, instead lets them hang at her ankles.  His fingers find her and she’s crying again, only differently.  He’s kissing her closed eyes, tasting the salt of her tears, probably realizing for the first time how raw her eyes and cheeks have become over the last seven days.  His belt is undone and his zipper next, then he’s free.  He’s in her and she’s thinking about how many times she’s been forced to clean the sofa in the last two months, since that first time after the party, with Lou dead drunk and asleep just two rooms off.  The chiming has stopped and the apartment is quiet again, except for their breathing.

We’ve brought this on ourselves, she says.

Matthew’s return is out of her hands.  She prays that God knows her heart enough to understand things.  Like what she can control and what parts of her (and Pieter) are forever cut away.

Go and watch the broadcast, she says in a whisper and dabs at the wet sofa.  Tell me if there’s any news.