portion of the artwork for Andrew Stancek's story

Andrew Stancek

Before you say your last goodbyes, make sure she’s truly dead.

If in the afternoon you saw her wave from the door across the street, say hello to her, not goodbye.

Three hundred and two days since the coroner pronounced her dead, but you don’t have to take his word. You know better.

The bed you found her on, supine, stone cold, covered in vomit and a pinkish goo like Pepto Bismol, a dried pool of blood coming from her nose onto the pillow, that bed has been carried off by hazmat-suited technicians who looked away when you thanked them for coming. Goodbye, bed.

You fulfilled, relieved, her will which insisted No Ceremony—both of you have suffered through more than enough ceremony already.

Driven, for years, she searched through the streets, bottles clinking in a voluminous Hermes purse, yelling indistinguishable words. After, you searched for her through those same streets frantic to find her before … before. The black squirrels chittered in disdain, the nuts were plentiful. “Pay no mind,” they said. Found, captured, brought back to her livid white-faced husband, your stepfather, a Murdstone, thin-lipped, she Siren-wailed, “How could you, why did you, I cannot, cannot.” But it turned out that she could while he could not, that he was the one to embrace death. The last goodbyes to him you found easy to mouth.

Her wails persisted in that granny flat where you deposited her, to be on her own while you kept an eye on her, “I did not mean it, I loved you, how could you, I cannot, cannot.” You heard through paper-thin walls and knew not to interfere.

You placed the bill for her cremation in a dime store frame, hung it in the kitchen. It proves … She must have … Yet she sits at table with you and smacks her lips as she munches the heel of the dark rye loaf and cackles. You listen to Karajan together, she conducts and you both hum. Her asthma no longer bothers her, so you arrange purple and white lilacs on the kitchen table and inhale.

Her subscription to Vogue is up for renewal. Third notice, it says. How many notices will there be, you wonder.

The phone rings. Don’t answer, she says.

Aloha means goodbye and hello. You hang onto hello.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 52 | Fall/Winter 2018