This is one of my favorite short-short stories. I hope y'all enjoy it as much as I do.
“It was the only thing he could do for her.” The women who knew her gossip in hushed voices, their pity for Sam evident as a weeping boil. He
stands beside the open coffin and gently strokes the auburn curls that frame his wife’s face. A gentle spring breeze blows across the cemetery,
ruffling his clothes and her hair ever so slightly. They said it was strange to have an open casket at the grave-site, but he had said he needed to
say goodbye, there and then.
He is a tall man in his late thirties with broad shoulders and a thick mane of red hair. His face is ashen and gaunt, overgrown with stubble, the
product of many sleepless nights. His wife is a small woman, but in the coffin, surrounded by all the faux velvet and mahogany laminate nine hundred
and thirty seven dollars could buy, she nearly disappears.
The cancer that ravaged her body was treated primarily with chemotherapy. The only mixture of chemicals vile enough to kill the monster that ate her
from the inside cost more than their mortgage each month. They paid out of pocket for over a year; each wanting to believe that the cancer would dry
up and die sometime soon, always sometime soon. Sometime soon she would get better, sometime soon they could get back on their feet and get on with
life. Sometime soon she would stop vomiting blood. The poison was shot into her system daily at eleven in the morning, in the end it left her broken
and shivering, swaddled in a hospital gown and too weak even to move.
Sam turns away from his wife of seventeen years and walks with unsteady legs towards his truck. The bystanders watch him go, the priest in particular
seems surprised at his early departure. Springs earliest harbingers line the path that leads Sam from the grave to the parking lot. He walks
carefully around the budding flowers and sprouts sticking antennae like from the rich soil around the graves.
In all the time they were married, Sam had gone against her wishes only twice. He bought her an expensive engagement ring when she asked him not to,
and he killed her when she pleaded with him to stop. She was in the grips of lucidity for the brief moment between his kiss goodbye and the spark of
electricity as he pulled the plug from the wall. That’s when she spoke for the first time in months. She was too weak to lift her head as she
spoke, but through the milky haze of drugs and pain, she called to him. She told him no. She shook her head feebly on the starched white expanse of
pillow and looked him in the eyes. She told him no. He had smiled serenely and eased the plug from the wall.
“Trust me sweety” was all he said to her as she struggled with lungs too damaged to draw breath. She suffocated before the nurse had time to get
Michael drives slowly through the cemetery, looking out the window at the sun as it drowns in a magenta sea of clouds. “Red sky at night, sailors
delight, red sky at morn, sailors be warned.” Michael mumbles to himself, remembering the adage his father told him after teaching him to sail.
“I love you Michelle”. He mouths the words without really saying them; lips move but no sound arrives. Michael smiles. His small pickup rumbles
down the path that winds around the cemetery, easing over the last hill and down to the main gate. He stops at the gate and looks over his shoulder
before pulling out on to the main road and heading west.
The road turns into a three-lane highway in a few miles, and Michael picks up speed. He cruises into the setting sun, flying past the other cars on
the highway. The sun doesn’t seem to be moving any more. He rolls down his window and props his arm on the door. “Are you still with me?”
Michael says, closing his eyes for a moment. Nodding as if listening, he opens his eyes and looks around. His foot presses down harder on the
accelerator and the little truck obliges. Michael leans back in his seat and takes a deep breath. The smell of his wife’s perfume fills his head.
She sits in the passenger seat, looking out the window. He smiles and looks at her. She is her old self again, before the drugs and the cancer and
the pain. She smiles back at him, wispy hair dancing in front of her face.
The sun catches up with them in California. They sit on the pier and look out onto the bay. The water is on fire. Michael is crying, the tears
splatter unceremoniously on the upholstery below him. Michelle is fading away again, just like before. The ghost of her is fading, and there’s no
more road left for Michael. She raises one ephemeral hand to his cheek, and he feels pins and needles dance over the flesh of his face. He looks out
on the still water of the bay with wet eyes. Michelle cocks her head to the side and smiles at him, the way she used to when they were in college
Michael turns and looks down the length of the pier. He clenches his jaw and jams his foot on the accelerator. Tears stream down his cheeks as they
hurtle toward the end of the pier. He looks over to Michelle. Her expression is pained. She slowly shakes her head, eyes pleading him no.
“Trust me sweety.”
[edit on 25-7-2005 by WyrdeOne]