Silence spreads into space, upstream in nuclear steel and chrome comfort. There’s a bottle of gin on the floor that should be empty but it’s not, and an argument under the table that shouldn’t be but is. He’d tried to escape but couldn’t, and she asked for it — with question marks. Told him that his ellipses were obscene, and then she cried briefly to survive him. “So I’ll stay,” he said, again, and she told him to bury it out next to the shed. There’s a maple tree there, listing against the wind, so he put on his gumboots and carried it out there alone with gin hands bare. Shaking. The shed door rots, protests, and the coal shovel’s rusted out. A life lived in short seasons, he thinks as he stabs the earth with a clank only to realize that he couldn’t break ground even if he tried, and he’s tried so many times, but the soil is sour. She knows that. The daisies she plants die every year. She won’t be perfect or right or wonderful, he will never not be ignorant, and the daisies will always fucking die. Without argument. Without question marks.
Once, he painted a green field, she standing in it, the wind in her hair and in the lace hems of her dress. She cut the skin from her breast and gave it to him. He set his hair on fire and gave her the ash. They made love in the moonlight, that field now grey, and as he pressed his thumbs into her throat, she asked him a question, but he can’t remember what it was. Then she said she wished she had a glass eye, one that would never grow hazy when she looked at him, like the marbles they’d played with on the street when they were kids. He had one in his pocket just for such an occasion. She laughed and she laughed, and she laughed until she didn’t.
It used to be you and me.
Now it’s just them, always kneeling there, under that tree in the dead dirt, praying for something . . . anything at all. Hoping for an emptiness she can live with: a hole deep enough for all his regret.
Cheryl Anne Gardner is a hopeless dark romantic, lives in a haunted house, and often channels the spirits of Poe, Kafka, and de Sade. When she isn’t writing, she likes to chase marbles on a glass floor, eat lint, play with sharp objects, and make taxidermy dioramas with dead flies. Her writing has been described as “beautifully grotesque,” her characters “deliciously disturbed.” Her short fiction has been published in dozens of journals including Dustbin, Hobo Pancakes, Metazen, Pure Slush, Synaesthesia, Danse Macabre, and at The Molotov Cocktail among others.