When the novelist died, the coroner made his first incision. Jumping away from the table, he gasped when letters exited from the thin opening. Plot drifted up, eventually hitting and bouncing across the white ceiling.
The coroner followed the word’s path into a corner, where plot became entangled in a spider’s web. Last week, he heard a famous writer speaking on NPR. One line came to mind: “Place obstacles in your character’s path.”
Lowering the scalpel again, more cautiously this time, the coroner sliced a larger line. Next, names of women and men left the deceased writer’s chest: Samantha, Theodore, Bridget, and Richard. “What else is in here, buddy, an entire book?” he asked the corpse.
When he reached for the characters, they evaded his grasp. The coroner moved to the open window where the four names floated balloon-like into the late-afternoon sun.
Finished with the autopsy, the coroner wrote as cause of death—blockage.
Physics and the Sweater
After Statia’s husband dies, she sleeps with his favorite blue sweater—the one he often wore while lecturing various Physics classes at the University before his sudden death.
Just last week, Massey had been discussing motion and position. He’d leaned back in his chair to show the students the exact point one could reach prior to falling. Unfortunately, Massey had gained weight over the holidays—too much turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Miscalculating the impact of the extra pounds, he had fallen back, hit his head, and died that very afternoon.
Every day since the funeral, at night Statia spreads out Massey’s sweater on the king-sized bed. The cable-knit fabric smells like pine and textbooks. She also sets his tortoise shell glasses on the pillow. When the moon reflects light on the bed just so, and Statia is nearly asleep, it seems as though her husband is alive, resting silently beside her.
Sometimes at night one blue sweater arm wraps itself around her curvy hips. Statia chalks it up to a spiritual element and a slight shift in gravity caused by his absence in the universe.
Maureen Sherbondy’s most recent book is Dancing with Dali. Lines in Opposition will be published in April, 2022 (Unsolicited Press). Her work has appeared in Wigleaf, Upstreet, Calyx, and other journals. Maureen lives in Durham, NC.