LAST WORDS by Jayne Martin

There’s usually two of us, but it’s Christmas Eve and I got nowhere to be. Anyway, she’s just a little bit of a thing, barely 90 pounds from the looks of her. I can roll her onto the gurney. 

The Super found her after complaints about the smell. I don’t smell nothing no more. Fucking freezing in here. 

“No rent. No heat,” he said.

Asshole should be charged with murder. But who’s gonna complain? 

Place is neat as a pin. Something my mom used to always say. Neat as a pin. Still don’t know what that means. Mom would have been about her age if the cancer hadn’t gotten her.

Not much in the fridge. Lettuce, brown and wilting. One of those single-serve cups of ice cream in the freezer. Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. I find a spoon.

“I was a Deadhead,” she says. “Followed them everywhere.” 

I dip the spoon into the ice cream, raise it to my lips. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Oh heaven’s no. No reason for it to go to waste,” she says. “Sorry to inconvenience you on Christmas Eve. I thought I’d be found before this.”

People who say those that have passed are “dead and gone” don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. 

“Where’s your family?” I ask.

“Why, they’re all around. Just waiting. Don’t you see them?”

The room swells with Christmas music as children sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and dance around a brightly-lit tree. Grownups sip eggnog by a mantel hung with stockings with the names Charlie, Susie, and Mary.

And there in the middle of the room, she stands, looking vibrantly alive, her arms outstretched toward me. “You’re welcome to join us.”

It’s not the first time I was made such an offer, and I can’t say I’m not tempted. I toss the empty ice cream container into the garbage and walk over to the lifeless form on the floor. 

“I’ll take good care of you,” I say and gently place the sheet over her unseeing clear blue eyes.

ART BY BOB SCHOFIELD @anothertower

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