• New short fiction, every week.
    The words you know and love . . .
    in a totally different order.

  • Archives:
    Amelia Gray

    44. The Death of Mother
    45. The Death of —
    46. The Death of James

    By Amelia Gray

    THE DEATH OF MOTHER

    Mother became the object of our curses. The first caused a rash to climb up her arm like a creeping vine. She saw it when she was cleaning a breakfast dish and set down the soap to idly scratch.

    “What in the fine hell,” she said. Ours was a poor curse and performed in a hurry. If she had consulted the proper sources, she could have stopped it all before it happened. Blessedly, she is the type of woman to ignore a runny rash, to slap on a bandage should it commence to crack and gush. This woman was the type to ignore a heart murmur on the occasion of her child’s sixth birthday. She would want to die on an Easter weekend so as to save the church lilies.

    The second curse happened soon after, when each fingernail on both hands began to darken. She scrubbed them with the acetone polish remover we had gotten into the previous summer with the fireplace matches. It made her nails smell like a burned grocery bag. Layers of nail commenced to flaking off into shaved-looking piles under her hands.

    “It must be that dish soap,” she said. We nodded. At night we curled quiet under goosedown and carved incantations into our palms.

    She yelled from her bedroom in the morning and we rushed in to find her hair gone from the top of her head, that lovely yellow hair she would comb nightly, clumped on the pillow like a sleeping creature.

    That was enough. She said, “W.S., get the car keys and drive Mother to the urgent care.” We sure did, all of us looking like a funny family sharing the Caprice Classic’s front bench, us fiddling with the radio station while she sobbed, nails black as a boar and clutching a bag of her own hair on her lap as evidence for the ladies in the clinic.

    We still had to wait an hour and a half. The waiting room inhabitants breathed in unison and the room expanded and contracted like a lung. One man had cut his finger open and another looked ill from drink while a woman next to him ate a hamburger sandwich from the top down, first removing the upper half of the bun and licking a gob of mayonnaise from the toasted bread. . . . Read More.

    Our Friends

  • They Come in Collections, Too

    New and Impending from Harper Perennial: