issue nineteen

art gallery
past issues
current issue
(668 words)
David Woodward
The Last Memory
Photo by
Andreas Kaiser

She was hugging Hope. Her face was buried in his golden coat. One of her hands was covering one of his ears. I even remember the sky behind her. The sun was setting; the day was done. It was horrible, just plain horrible.

"Did you hear the explosion?"

I felt the explosion while I was ploughing my fields. The corn grew like gangbusters that summer. Best I ever seen. Made us feel good. Been a lot of drought these past few years. Don't know much about global warming but something just ain't right. And then we allowed the mine to come in. Copper. Young folk gotta work and farming ain't what it used to be. If it ain't drought, pestilence or irrigation problems, it's big business squeezing us out. Everything's being outsourced to them, or China.

"What happened after the explosion?"

Explosion shook me clean out of my tractor. I fell to God's Earth. I shot up like a jackrabbit. And I ran. Can't run too good these days, or then. But goddamn it, I ran.

"Where did you go?"

I followed the smoke. It was gushing out of the ground like it wanted out of Hell! But no bodies came out. Just these fumes that kept coming and coming out of the… manhole I guess you could call it. Hellish smoke departing Hell! It kept rising and rising. Making peace with the sky I suppose.

"Did it remind you of something?"

What do ya mean? Like it was their souls or something? Shit! Listen to my story. Don't feel the need to fill in the blanks.

"Sorry. Please, go on."

There was panic above ground, yes! But, below, well, it was God awful peaceful, just plain peaceful. I know 'cause I approached the hole. The devil smoke was drawing me in. I looked down into the opening. My eyes burnt something bad. I closed them tight. That's when…

"Do you want to stop?"

No! No! Gotta get this one off my chest. When I closed my eyes, I could hear better. It was like I could never hear anything before. Not clearly, ya know? That's when I heard it…

"Heard what?"


"Must have been…"

Of course it was! Couldn't see, couldn't breathe, could only smell smoke, some kind of gas filling my lungs with searing flesh… and I…


Bolted! I couldn't stand it, I couldn't, just couldn't. I ran away from all that Hell. I'm so damn ashamed.

"It was a tough situation to be…"

And then I seen her. Like I do now. She was a good ways away from the commotion. Her head was in the light of the dying sun. Her little woman-like hands was holding that dog so tight. You could see he was wanting to go. To see what the hubbub was about. He knew like the rest of us. And I remember…

"Yes, sir, you remember?"

I was ashamed of myself a second time that day. I don't know if I can tell what went through my fool of a mind at that moment.

"Take your time."

I don't need time! Had enough of it to last two lifetimes. Just got to get this off my chest. Hmm… I'm not one to get all soft and drippy-like. But when I seen that girl with her dog after what I just heard, well, I felt like I was looking at the most beautiful thing in the world. And until this day, it pains me to feel…

"There's no shame in…"

That ain't my shame! My shame is all them men died! I run away! And I see something beautiful! Something that made me feel good! At the wrong time! It was my last memory of that day.

"What are you seeing now?"

I see my life. My whole life. But with a big hole in it. I'd give it all up, all of it, you hear? All of it! It haunts me. I couldn't do anything. For anybody. And still… all that… beauty!


M  C  R

This work is copyrighted by the author, David Woodward. All rights reserved.