Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2014 - Page 14

14 | Psychopomp Magazine

little thing swaddled in a pink blanket. Everything then was bright and hopeful.

Ray keeps talking but you’re not listening anymore. You’re still with the damn sandwiches. You decide they were tuna. Maybe mayo too. She likes mayo, the wife, the one in the nursing home who calls Ray Charlie. You decide she calls him Charlie. And all she eats is tuna and mayo sandwiches and Ray eats them too but he hates it now like he hates reminding her to call him Ray. When he goes home at night he fixes himself things like steak and potatoes, tacos, frozen pizzas. The bread molds in its bag on the counter.

You try focusing on an object, a wrench balancing on the edge of a toolbox. If you concentrate hard enough you won’t think about them. Ray keeps talking. He asks you a question that you only half understand.

“Yeah, just moved back home,” you say because you’re pretty sure he just asked where you’re from. He didn’t ask where you’d been which was up at medical school bringing the dead back to life—in your head, anyway. But now you’re home with Mother who asks you to do things like getting the oil changed even though it’s your car. After this you’ll stop by Kroger and pick up dinner: rotisserie chicken and a box of macaroni and cheese. And then she’ll ask about the car and you’ll tell her about Ray, the guy you’re not even listening to anymore. In fact, you’re sure you’ve crossed over into rude customer by now, so you attempt conversation.

“How long have you worked here?”

“Owned the place for ‘bout nineteen years,” he answers. “Getting so old now, I’m just glad they still let me work a little.” You can see missing teeth in that crooked mouth and when he laughs, his whole body jiggles and shakes. His overalls are covered in oil and grime.

Nineteen years. You think of Ray before that, skinnier, handsome with black hair and a fedora because he looks like one of those guys. Not like Johnny, who was fonder of sweaters. It’s cold in Maine. You’ve never been there but you know it snows because you’ve seen pictures. Johnny’s skin was cold when you touched him for the first time. You wanted to take the gloves off. You wanted to see if he felt different. You wanted to make sure he was real.

“Your phone,” Ray says. You look down at the blue plastic clam cradled in your palm. It’s been vibrating for awhile. You can tell because your hand is numb. It’s Mother. She learned to text when