My plane descended from the white-hot sky as slowly as the soufflé I had baked for the dinner at which I planned to celebrate my engagement to Ross. He canceled, calling to say we should date other people, and hung up without a goodbye, good luck, or farewell kiss. After several hours, I stopped phoning and texting. I had my pride.
I tried hanging myself, but the heating pipe did not support my weight. My life savings went to my landlord and his thieving plumber and carpenter. Drinking myself to death failed as I passed out before my blood alcohol achieved a fatal level. I turned to jaywalking, first city streets, then Interstates, but survived every crossing. God had chosen me to live long and suffer.
Now, under a white sun, my mouth filled with sucking candies to guarantee an ample supply of saliva, I prepared to spit on the white pine coffin mocking me from the bottom of Ross’s grave. Mourners shunned me as if they knew I was one of the damned. I did not try to hide it.
“I’m Ross’s mom.” A woman, veiled and wreathed in black, offered a gloved hand.
I steeled myself against syrupy reminiscences. She would expect some in return and I had none to offer.
“You must be Tomãs,” she said. “Ross found out the afternoon he called. He did not want to ruin a second life.” She lowered her eyes and returned to the arms of her surviving children.
The heat-sealed my tear ducts and cottoned my mouth. The sun fired my hair. Shame burned away my skin, exposing my soul to the solar wind. I hurled myself onto Ross’s coffin, clinging to it with such ferocity it took all eight pallbearers to break my death grip and wrestle my lifeless body from his grave.
Liss’s first novel was published in July 2020 and second novel will be published in May 2022. He’s a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Prize, the St. Lawrence Book Award, and the Bakeless Prize. He’s published over 55 short stories in, inter alia, The Saturday Evening Post, The South Dakota Review, The South Carolina Review, H.O.W. Literary Journal, Two Bridges Review, Hunger Mountain, The Florida Review, Carve Magazine, and Fifth Wednesday Journal. He earned an MFA from Emerson College, Boston, MA, and leads a fiction workshop at the St. Botolph Club, Boston, MA. Visit his website at www.sfredericliss.com for more information.