issue thirty-five

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(780 words)
David Melody
Artwork by
Nils-Erik Larson

"I'm shouting because YOU'RE DEAF."

"Huh? Lean closer!"
"It's great to see you -- after all these years."


"Years. YEARS!"

"The waitress could be near?"

"She said I'd find you here. Every Sunday. Same table. Same time. Lupita's a sweet gal."

"Lupita? I call her Loo."

"Oh you were always the punctual one. To the minute. We made sales, boy did we. You never let up until the clock hit five. Five PM the end. 'The END,' I'd yell from down the hall."


"It had to, of course. Was always going to. Mildred back to you, always back to you."

"Say again."

"It's SO GOOD to see you."

"I'm alone now."

"We're all alone. Peel back the years, as many as you want. Alone. We were always alone. The only thing that stopped it was Mildred. For a while, she stopped time. Your MILDRED. My Mildred. Who the hell knows. Her sundress shaped our backyard afternoons."

"I said I'm alone. Millie died three years ago."

"I can see her now. She'd tidy up, have a gimlet at the door when you returned. I sipped my first gimlet with the two of you. 'Gims up!' we'd say."

"Gimlets? They don't serve alcohol here."

"Boy did we drink. Oh, to have a young liver again. And stamina. We had it in spades. Or was it greed? Nothing stopped us. I still have that trophy from the regionals. Philly, Chicago, Detroit… we beat 'em all. You had your numbers down, man. I was the sizzle, you were the steak. Nobody could sell insurance like us. T-BONE'S COMIN'!"

"They don't serve steak here either. This place is a dump. Haven't had steak since, I don't know, maybe the accident. Doctor said my taste buds were ruined. Somehow connected to my hearing loss. Sinus damage... something."

"Lupita didn't tell me that. You're lucky, you know, to have her these years. She's done a damn good job keeping you in line. MILLIE would approve."

"Millie? Millie's dead."

"You were a sucker for sweet drinks. Millie was a sweet drink, alright. Why she chose you over me -- I'll find out in the next life, I guess. She and I, we even thought about having kids. My kid would be your kid, a miracle birth for sure, and the church would agree, and that's all it would take, every Sunday the two of you in the first pew. Clockwork. A shine on your suit pants from so much kneeling. A MIRACLE."

"What? A miracle would be to hear again."

"No, it's easier this way. I'll talk and hold your hand and maybe I'll feel Mildred holding me back. No bony fingers. No wrinkled carrots. Sweet skin of a girl just out of college, married the wrong guy for the right reasons, and always just across town from me. That's a gut punch."

"You'll have to talk louder. They tried to teach me lip reading. Didn't take."


"My best suit."


"I keep it for church, and special occasions. Like today. Thought I'd never hear your voice again. HA HA! Pun intended."

"We laughed a lot back then. They say laughter is the last to go. Nothing lasts."

"Did you hear my joke?"


"Don't get mad."

"You should be the mad one. What's it been? Thirty years? I left you holding those notes."

"Wondered what happened to you."

"Drank too much. Ate too much. Always thought I'd get them back to you. But… ended up somehow in Albuquerque. Married. Divorced. Tried to leave. Bank wouldn't let me."


"You don't have to shout. I'm not the one with the hearing problem."

"My apologies."

"Accepted. We're old friends."

"Too old."

"Maybe. Maybe not. After this I'm heading over to the senior center. There's a dance on with some of the old gang."

"She won't be there, you know."

"Who won't be there?"



"She told me."

"Told you what?"

"I could have forgiven her. Could have."

"What are you talking about old man?"

"It was so long ago."


"She told me on the drive. Our last drive together. Sunday. All those Sundays on my knees. She told me. My foot fused to the pedal. I pressed as hard as I could. Momentary seizure, they said afterward. No one ever knew. After that, I couldn't get up. I couldn't look up at the cross. Jesus left me that day. No one ever knew."


"A miracle. When I heard you were in town, I knew it was a miracle."


M  C  R

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