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Today's Story by Carly Berg

The doorknob on the little mausoleum twisted. The door creaked opened.  My chest ached, as if my heart dropped into my stomach.


Drifting along would be so easy. No hour of the day or night would be different from any other, no day different from the rest. I wouldn’t be sure I was alive with nothing outside myself to anchor me. I’d float around my old relic-filled house like a ghost.

So I stuck with a routine, though I didn’t have much reason to. The kids weren’t coming for Easter, they rarely even called. I boiled a few eggs and dyed them pink with food coloring, took a thin packet of sliced ham out of the freezer. I’d fix ham, mac and cheese, and green beans for dinner. A small, foil wrapped chocolate rabbit waited on the kitchen table, glistening in the weak morning sun.

I put on my black hoodie and took my daily walk along the path in the woods. Today I cut back through the cemetery on a duty visit to Elmer. He rested in a garden crypt rather than the standard underground casket. I had bought it out of guilt and the funeral director’s manipulation of my emotions. Elmer’s burial cost more than his car.

Hello, Elmer. I plucked a stray weed from the base of his mausoleum, his tiny, ornately carved house. The weather’s finally warming up a bit. I kept my visits with him light and surface only, like pleasant chitchat between acquaintances.

The doorknob on the little mausoleum twisted. The door creaked opened.  My chest ached, as if my heart dropped into my stomach.

He emerged, stooped over, thinner and grayer than I remembered. Bruises or mold bloomed in spots on his face and hands. But, clearly, he was still Elmer.

“The weather’s finally warming up a bit? That crypt is so hot I thought I was in hell. Well, what are you gawking at, woman? Are you going to help me get home, or stare at me all day?”

Always with the questions, still. Questions from one who already knew everything. Too dizzy to protest, I held my elbow out for him to hold onto.

We trudged home through thick fog that wasn’t really there.

“I’m hungry.”

“All right, Elmer. Let me get another packet of ham out of the—”

“Get me a beer.”

“I’m out of—“

“Why don’t you get some, dammit?” He slammed his fist down on the table. The foil- wrapped rabbit bounced to the floor.

“Okay, I’m going.” I rushed to the coat tree by the door, to put my hoodie back on.

“What else do you have to drink?”

“I have a bottle of Riesling in the cabinet, and some tequila, and –“

“Nevermind. Give me some wine first. Also, if it’s not too goddamn much to ask, could I get some dinner around here?”

The day dragged on. Elmer ate, drank, and yelled at me. Then he watched TV, drank, and yelled at me. He stumbled to bed, and threw his shoe at me on the way.
My niggling doubt was answered, the one that had me waking up nights, out of breath. Elmer never said a word about missing me, or being glad to see me. He didn’t ask if I was sad, here alone. He didn’t show any sign of even liking me the slightest bit. He never said he was sorry.

Some people aren’t going to change, no matter what kind of chance they get for a do-over. I guess that went for me, too. I served him with a smile and a splash of anti-freeze in every drink, just like last time.


Carly Berg is a decorative couch pillow who doesn’t want to be judged. Her stories appear in several dozen magazines and anthologies, including PANK, Word Riot, and Bartleby Snopes. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and is currently at work on a book of flash stories.


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