Gerald’s Wife
The smell of lumber. Bits of wood in the air. Golden motes. The day of the funeral, a stream of light through the curtains. Dust twirling like glitter. Bitsy from next door saying, She never was much of a housekeeper. Skin of a raisin like a leech on her tooth.

You need something cut, my friend? Gerald shook his head. The wood was a comfort but he had to move on.

Aisle of shovels. Something with a handle, ain’t too heavy. Might as well pay the extra two dollars.

Lantern? Flashlight. Years ago they’d gone camping. Gerald backed over the flashlight they’d bought special. Deidre made a quiet noise with her tongue. Gerald had wanted to yell.

Lantern. Deidre reading in bed, making those mmm noises.

Like each word was a revelation. Every now and again she’d leave that lamp on all night.

The day she died, the blown bulb. Flick, nothing. Flick, nothing. The gray bulb, the broken filament. Deidre’s grip on her arm. The brown wet at the seat of her pants, the kidney-shaped bile. Milk-clouded eyes. Stroke, the doctor said. Her brain broke, was how Gerald would tell it. Cloudy bulb eyes, broken filament brain.

Lightbulbs? Gerald said it aloud, said it toward the aproned black woman limping toward him. Her hand crumpled at her ribs. Mouth wet at one corner. Broke brain, Gerald thought.

Aisle thirteen, came the answer. Clear as a bell. All fixed up. Crescent wrench, x-ray, level. Scalpel, spade. Hard to know where to start. We had to break Deidre’s hips, the man at the funeral home said. So her legs’d fit right. Obligated to let you know. In the casket the little finger she broke in the fall angled up, dainty as a princess.

Aisle thirteen. Only Gerald couldn’t bring himself. Didn’t seem like the right fix.