All posts by X Teri

Don’t Read This, Either: A List

“Stop a problem early.” That is why I kidnapped that SOB driving the ice cream truck around the neighborhood blaring that horrible music. #AprilSurprise

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I knew my doctor didn’t really like me. When I told him I was having breathing problems, he prescribed me an exhaler.

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Possible causes of anger:
1) Perceptive awareness
2) Underwear two sizes too small

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It turns out that the addition of a “Caution: crate contains 1 vampire” sign adds just the right amount of confused double-takes and laughter to the day…

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“He was so dangerous that the judge set the bond just for his booking photo at 1 million dollars.” – opening line from my next true-crime novel.

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Blank stare. That’s all I got when I told my co-worker that Neil Diamond’s classic song “Sweet Caroline” was actually a homage to cannibalism.

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To calculate the area of a circle, just multiply the radius squared by pi. To calculate the incoherence of the current president, just look at the face of his full-time sign language interpreter – the one with occupational Tourette Syndrome and arthritic middle finger.

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For everyone who is taking the time to early vote for me in Washington County, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you that you’re probably high.

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“…it was a place where one simply knew that family trees weren’t fully-branched…” -X

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Early this morning as I exited the auxiliary building, I heard high-pitched screaming and shouts of pain and anguish. False alarm. Someone was sitting in their car listening to a Luke Bryan song with the windows down.

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I ain’t saying the officer was racist, but he did have an ACLFU bumper sticker on his patrol car.

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This joke was written specifically to irritate a friend of mine: “I don’t mind that Chik-fil-A is closed on Sundays. I just wish they’d take a good idea and make it great by closing the other 6 days of the week, too.”

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I took a long walk this morning on strange roads, before the sun arrived. Later, I opted to walk again, even though it was apparently 150 degrees here.

To the drivers on St. Loius St., my apologies. As I walked up the long, slow incline heading toward downtown Batesville, a vengeful bug flew into my left nostril. Not content with being stuck there in my nasal cavern, it struggled and burrowed. I immediately convulsed like I had just attended a Cook-Your-Own-Skunk competition. I’m not sure how long I attempted to expel the insect invader.

But it did choose to exit through the back of my nose and from my mouth. The result looked like a madman’s spilled petri dish.

My nose feels like my ears do when I listen to Luke Bryan attempt a series of high notes without causing the neighborhood dogs to bark and howl.

Bugs: 1. X: 0

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I knew the movie was going to be crappy. The standard warning had been modified to say, “…this feature is intended for manure audiences only.”

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I don’t agree with torture. On the other hand, Luke Bryan provides a positive example where it works.

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My latest effort, “The Smell of Music,” didn’t go over as well as I had hoped.

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The classic oldies song “In The Still Of The Night,” it turns out, is not a homage to nocturnal alcohol production.

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The professor was at first confused by the complete lack of spaces In all of his student’s final papers – until he saw the headline: ” Local Area Hit By Blank Robber.”

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“Her name was Charles, which annoyed almost everyone.” – The first line of the next great American novel.
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It seems that the disgruntled man would have to continue to walk off-kilter and with pained gait for the rest of his life. The stick up his rear, it turns out, was a pre-existing condition.
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I’m handing out canned goods today. To random strangers.
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My friend Jeff invited me to go shooting. It’s not my fault that he didn’t ask me to wait until we exited his SUV. Sorry, Interstate 49 and specifically Exit 72.
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Our romantic evening evaporated when we discovered that our gondola was traversing a root canal.
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I was listening to a band sing 80s hits and became more and more uncomfortable and hot. Finally, it dawned on me. It was a cover band.
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Need a quick nickname for a co-worker who is incompetent and mean? Forrest Grump.
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“It’s always good to be prepared,” goes the cliche. Hansel and Gretel were prepared. Literally. By a cannibalistic witch. #Impreciseenglish
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I bought a new cabinet for my living room. It came with both a Secretary of Interior and Secretary of Defense.
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I sprayed for pests yesterday. The Purchasing Department took it personally.
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My apologies for the intense meteorological conditions.The high winds are in fact a result of my boss givng his Daily Status Report.
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My apologies for the intense meteorological conditions.The high winds are in fact a result of my boss givng his Daily Status Report.
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I started my new constipational martial arts class. It’s taught by Jean-Claude Van Bran.
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My new vegetable-based monetary system rolls out today: Bitcorn.
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Why isn’t a door prize called an “Enterprize”?
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Politics may concern me, but not nearly as much as the heart palpitations I experience when I hear a can of Pringles open in my presence or the rip of a newly-opened bag of Doritos.
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To save money, I built the new shelf in the living room with a karate saw.
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I ain’t saying my wife’s texts are long – but Penguin Books just sent her an unsolicited book advance bonus.
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My proposed budget at work was a masterpiece; it got nominated for the 2018 Fantasy Writer’s Award.
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Instead of asking “How old are you?” at liquor stores and cigarette shops, they should ask, “How old were you on August 15th, 2009?” It’s math, verification, and hilarity all rolled into one package.
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I went to turn myself in to the Springdale Police Department. They rejected me, telling me I needed to commit a crime first. I think they could have worded their advice a little better.
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In a new twist, the bank tellers now all wear masks and hoodies.
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Furlongs Per Fortnight

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Assuming that everyone has the same frame of reference is a problematic concept. Some people, like me, measure speed in ‘furlongs per fortnight,’ which is an actual speed measurement. MPH might be more convenient, but not nearly as interesting or capable of inspiring fits of math, a condition shared by most school children and all rational adults.

The security guard ran past me as I stood near the main lobby. I use ‘ran’ in the loosest sense of the word. If he were a cheetah, he would be an arthritic three-legged one.

30 seconds later, he half-jogged to the main door and stopped, his love of donuts now severely impairing his ability to continue on whatever chase occupied him.

After a few heaving breaths, he asked me, “X, did you see a woman run by here before I came by the first time?”

“Yes, I sure did.” A woman had nervously and quickly passed by me a minute before the security guard. She seemed to be fidgety, like someone trying to light a short fuse on a stick of dynamite. I assumed she had eaten in the cafeteria, a mistake often preceding a very quick and unexpected tightly-wound walk to the nearest bathroom.

The security guard impatiently followed up with another question. “What did she look like, X?”

“Well, her hair looked like Tourette Syndrome would look if it were a visual thing instead of an auditory one.” It seemed like it was the most distinguishing thing about her.

I now realize that the security guard was unaccustomed to descriptions by allegory, however, as he rolled his eyes and waved his hand dismissively.

As he headed back around for another look, I shouted after him, “She also had on pants that reminded me of an LSD-inspired fractal!”

It seemed like the only thing I could do to help him.
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Spices and Altercations for $1000, Alex

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I made a quick trip to the store. As always, things go awry. In this case, though, the maelstrom didn’t involve me. I was just a witless witness.

I stood near the spices, admiring the universe of flavorful options. Not only was my mouth watering, but also so were my eyeballs. (Though the detail adds nothing to this story, I highly recommend both the chipotle bacon and garlic jalapeño seasoning.) I can eat cardboard with the right spices or sauces. My wife would testify that I, in fact, often do, given my irreverence for what constitutes ‘food.’

Voices rose, obviously in dissent, and probably emanating from a nearby and unseen aisle. In a few moments, an employee of the dubious retailer walked into my peripheral vision, taking small steps backward, yet still barking at someone I couldn’t yet see. As he stopped, an older woman approached from the other side of the endcap of the aisle. Her finger stabbed the air in irritation as she spoke. She was adamantly demanding that the employee go self-procreate and accompanied by his terrible attitude, even though her recommendation was couched in both vernacular and anatomically specific language.

It should have been awkward to witness, given the venom in the air. It wasn’t, though. It was more like Live TV and comparable to the scene which ensues when the three guys attempting to put the alligator in the SUV suddenly find themselves being violently schooled by an uncooperative lizard.

I laughed. Both the woman and the employee took a moment to throw quick glances of scorn my way and then turned on one another again.

Since neither of them had swords, daggers, nor jousting sticks, I assumed the scene was safe. At least for me.

Exactly .5 seconds later, a man wearing an industrial uniform approached and stepped in front of the woman. She stopped her malevolent incantations. His arms were hanging directly down, probably to signal a benign intervention.

He spoke to the retail employee. “Sir, did you bring a mop with you?”

“What? Why do I need a mop?” the employee asked. “No one told me there was a spill.”

“If you keep talking to people the way you were just talking to this lady, I’m going to mop the floor with you.” He didn’t even wait for the employee to reply. He turned to the woman and said, “I’m so sorry. I think I fixed your problem.” He walked away, perhaps to right another wrong. If he wore a cape, it was well concealed.

The employee continued to stand at the opposite end of the aisle. His face was becoming increasingly redder. It seemed like his head was expanding as it did so and I feared his glasses might burst from his face like shrapnel if it persisted.

When I went to check out, I could see the employee near the end of the register area, animatedly telling his story to another obviously disinterested co-worker. His arms waved and moved like a broken windmill as he spoke. I’m not sure what version of the truth he was telling but I was certain his eyes were keeping watch for the mysterious man in uniform as he did so.

The Most Beautiful Bird…

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Imagine the most exotic and beautiful bird your mind can conjure. You can picture its plumage, adorned with a prismatic array of colors, each a mystery to your curious eyes. As it moves, its feathers separate like a cloud of butterflies, producing a melodic and calming rustle. Its eyes shine with the brilliance of the promising universe which surrounds it.

That same bird now soars in the air and slowly descends upon on one of the outstretched limbs of a towering tree, it leaves a vivid green and the bulbous fruit hanging from the limbs make your mouth water with imagined anticipation and savor.

The bird stretches its elegant neck and takes one of the fruits and eats it, causing the scent of immense sweetness to burst into the air in a rainbow arc.

Now, imagine that fruit turning to what it inevitably must, passing through this beautiful bird and falling from its behind.

That’s what this peanut butter spread tastes like.

Because crap is crap.

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P.S. I wish you could have witnessed the look on my wife’s face when the flavor of this malevolent food touched her taste buds. She sat at the table, hunched over and smiling. Her face registered the hope of delight and the doubt of trying something new as the spoon touched her tongue. As the horrific flavor of this food invaded her taste buds, I could envision a dark sky filled with the corpses of plummeting angels, all decimated in flight from the unadulterated evil contained in the jar within Dawn’s reach.
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What’s The Buzz?

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This morning, I walked a route I’d never taken before. The block behind me can’t be accessed directly, so I walked the circuitous path out of my neighborhood and around. Despite previously driving down the dead-end road behind me and seeing it on Streetview, I never noticed a spur sidestreet jutting from it, truncated as it points South. Unknown places are a treat, especially in the early morning before life startles everyone from their cocoons.

As I rounded the bushes on the entrance, I saw a man walking toward me. I could smell marijuana in the air as if someone with low self-esteem and a bad haircut had used it as a perfume by mistake. Keep in mind that it was still mostly dark and I was walking in a strange place. I felt like Donald Trump might if he were accidentally transported to a library.

By the time I was within a few feet of the approaching walker, he took a drag from what looked like a vape pen and exhaled. Marijuana wafted through the air. The man said, “Hey,” and kept walking.

Tempted to shout, “Police” and run for my life as a prank, I instead kept walking, the distance between us growing.

For the remainder of my walk, I pondered the question, “Who smokes marijuana at 5:00 in the morning, especially when no convenience store lurks nearby?”

Maybe the man in question is getting his exercise and buzz simultaneously, having just completed a ‘GTD’ seminar.

P.S. The photo isn’t the man in question. It’s what I picture in my mind when I think of how it should have looked.
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Who Says A Doctor Visit Can’t Be Fun?

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This story is true. All of us involved laughed at least 25 times during my visit. I’m beginning to question their sanity.

I was seated in a nondescript patient room, amusing myself with wordplay and possible shenanigans. I vainly tried to make the interactive patient information display do something unexpected, such as indicating “Stop Touching Me.” I remembered to add something to my to-do list: bring a few crazy magazine titles on my next visit and exchange them with the normal magazines on the wall racks. I pulled this prank a few times when I was younger and it never failed to bring the expected confusion and hilarity. The interactive computer confirmed that I needed to lose more weight and recommended a haircut, preferably one starting with my back hair. Computers these days are increasingly impertinent, a trend which I enjoy.

My doctor asked me to come back in after 3 months, allegedly to determine if the blood pressure medication worked well enough to suit him. Being a doctor, though, meant that any condition not generally characterized as “still not dead” was an acceptable one to him. In my opinion, though, my visit was probably due to his suspicion that I had resumed eating for two people. No, I’m not currently pregnant, despite the rumors being broadcast by the waistline of my pants. I simply tend to eat for more than one person – not to be confused with a cannibal, who would tend to eat more than one person.

Because I arrived early, I could hear the goings-on of the doctor’s office as staff bantered, medical reps bartered their wares, and patients attempted to conceal the horror presented by the specter of a medical office. For most patients, a medical office is indeed a Pandora’s box, one filled with a hypochondriac’s WebMD web search. From outside, I heard the medical assistant say my name. “X” sounds like a curse when spoken in a normal tone of voice. Once people get to know me, they also tend to add an inexplicable “hissss” sound after my name, something that renders me slightly suspicious. I had already entertained her by claiming that the Med Rep in the inner sanctum of the back offices had given me free medical marijuana samples while in the lobby and that imbibing this sample resulted in the very low blood pressure reading she had elicited from me.

Assuming that the doctor would be on the cusp of opening the door, I placed my purple cellphone screen side down on the exam sink counter. I then quickly stepped behind the door, jamming myself in the corner as tightly as possible.

I felt the door open more than halfway. I held my breath.

I knew that on the other side of the door that Dr. Brown was scanning the length of the room, probably noticing my purple cellphone while doing so, and wondering where I went.

“Did the patient escape?” the doctor asked the two medical staffers seated nearby at the administration counter.

As he asked this, I quietly stepped out and away from behind the door, directly behind him, in plain sight of the two staffers, both of whom were looking at the doctor as he turned to face them and inquire as to my whereabouts.

Because decorum demanded it, I made a terrible, crazy face. Both staffers burst out laughing. The doctor sensed something behind him and half-turned, freezing as he saw me in his peripheral vision.

He shook his head and also burst into laughter.

Once we all stopped laughing, he told me, “No one has ever hidden behind the door from me like that, X. Well played. Well played.”

P.S. I don’t know what the billing code for playing “Hide-And-Seek” at the doctor’s office might be.

 

It’s A Place Which We Never Leave

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On the way back home from Texas, I turned off the discolored and uneven blacktop highway and drove through a small farming town in Arkansas. It was almost 7 p.m. on a windless Sunday evening. My windshield was a graveyard of hundreds of insects. The richness of the delta has its gifts.

I had lost all sense of urgency and time. Because I knew I wouldn’t drive all the way home that evening, I chose the blue highways to take me across part of my journey. These highways were once the only way to traverse the country and each one of them pierced rural communities, loosely connecting them to the outside world. As interstates rose to meet the demands of speed and commerce, the blue highways remained, like half-forgotten pictures tucked away in the top drawer of a dresser in one’s extra bedroom.

Downtown was a disintegrating and deceitful testament to the past. The solitary water tower still stood, rusting, and even the town’s name, once proudly emblazoned there, was long erased. The youthful graffiti always found on such a tower was illegible. The few young people who might live nearby attended school in another town, their own hometown mascot supplanted with another. Each of them quietly reminded themselves that they’d leave as soon as graduation came.

The jolt of crossing a desolate set of railroad tracks caused me to reach over and turn off the radio. A town’s railroad crossing conveys a clear message: a smooth transition indicates a thriving economy and nicer vehicles, while an uneven and poorly maintained one usually means that people live lives filled with less. People with money and separated from their agricultural roots clamor for better roads, ones devoid of historical reminders of commerce and transport.

History accompanied me as I made my way slowly across the brick-paved street. Without any evidence, I knew that several years ago, some well-meaning resident with a little money had vainly attempted to rejuvenate the corpse of this place, one founded on the backs of farmers. With his passing, the enthusiasm for saving the heritage of the place no longer loomed large on the psyche of the town. His tombstone, larger than those surrounding his resting place, is easily found in the cemetery not too far from the train tracks. In a generation, most of the cemeteries would be overgrown and many of these buildings would fall in on themselves, a gradual shattering and splintering of history. If I were to look, somewhere in the juncture of the small side streets would be a shuttered museum; its existence once contained within but with time, opened to spread out and include the entire town. My own hometown shares a similar and degenerative trajectory; the fiercely loyal will stay until nothing remains. They are the geographical observations points for entropy. Death need not make haste in these places.

Somewhere within the 4 blocks traversing west to east, I noticed a particular vacant storefront, displaying a single white rocking chair perched haphazardly up front, undoubtedly home to the bones of a once-thriving furniture store. The setting sun illuminated the faces of a hundred stacked cardboard boxes near the front windows. As carefully as the boxes were stacked, I couldn’t shake the feeling that they had been packed in haste and then abandoned, much like the store and probably like the town in general. I was certain that human hands hadn’t touched the boxes in years and that no one had relaxed in the rocking chair since its placement there. People were choosing to leave with as small a burden as possible.

Something about this store spoke to me. I pulled unevenly toward the broken curb and hesitated as I shut off the engine. The brick pavers had ended with the last block, probably as fund-raising dried up and people chose to leave instead. Every few feet a clump of grass was triumphantly sprouting from the untarred cracks in the road. I sat there, hands on the wheel, watching. Nothing moved around me. Maybe nothing had moved in the last hour, day, or week. A block ahead, the only traffic light in town blinked a dull red, casting a strange pall on an approaching evening. The light wasn’t blinking to any certain tempo and its arrhythmia went unheeded.

Looking at the sun reflected in the terrible facade of that building, I felt a creeping sadness wash over me. It seemed like I could feel the glances of the thousands of inhabitants who had passed here, reluctant to leave their hometown, but certain that they must. Brake lights always yield to a foot on the gas as nostalgia loses inevitably to hope. The fondness we so often feel for the places in our rearview mirrors softens our doubts about leaving yet rarely detains us.

The sun gave me its warmth as I sat in my car. Though the air was still and uncomfortable, I couldn’t break the silence by starting my car. The heat seemed to stir the ghosts of this place. I could hear their whispered names: Robert, Henry, Thomas, Samuel, Maggie and Jane Elvira. It was both melodious and cacophonous, like a choir warming up to an unspecified crescendo that would never quite arrive.

I could picture a shotgun house not too far from here, its ancient inhabitant eating cold cereal or buttermilk-soaked bread from a chipped white bowl. The metal fan nearby would be loudly alternating air through the cramped room. Around the person would be dozens of pictures, spanning generations, each of them revealing the face of someone long departed or of one who visits with less frequency. Next to the stubborn resident was a small wooden table. It was adorned with dozens of pill bottles, knick-knacks, and an older telephone, one wired to the world. In the rare event of a call, I could hear the fizzled and tired ring and recite almost every word that would ensue in the phone call, one measured by regret, loss, and small details.

I imagined the smell of cornbread, mustard greens, and fish quickly fried under the shade of any available tree. This place, once dominated by the sounds of screen doors casually slammed, pitchers of iced tea, and enthusiastic summer baseball games, was losing its voice. It seemed that even the echoes of lives once lived were fading now, departing with their particular smells and customs.

Before leaving town, I turned on the radio again. I pressed the ‘next station’ button and to my surprise, Merle Travis was singing “No Vacancy.” I smiled, pressed the gas pedal with enthusiasm, and took one last glance in the driver side mirror.

As I passed over the railroad tracks, I didn’t even notice the jolt.

I would wake up in another town tomorrow morning and this haunted place would fade to become an uncertain memory. All who had departed this place would unknowingly share this in common with me.

I, too, am from such a town. It is with me, always, in my quiet moments.

 

 

Above It All And Within

 

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Barbara closed her book with resolve, knowing that Pat Conroy’s love of the land which defined him would welcome her once again as soon as she opened the pages. She leaned over to kiss her husband David, even as he paused to remove himself from the world of John Irving. “I’ll be back in a minute, my Lowenstein,” she whispered. He nodded and peered at her over the rim of his ridiculous reading glasses.

She cast aside the bedspread and climbed from the bed. Though the room was a historical catalog of the shared lives of her, her husband, and daughter Elizabeth, Barbara no longer needed to cast a glance at the myriad collection of photos to remember each individual memory. Most of her days filled with recollections of the life they shared before Elizabeth departed. Nineteen eighty-five might as well have been another life. In many ways, it was.

She walked barefoot from the room and turned left, heading toward the darkened room which comprised the epicenter of her life and once belonged to her daughter. She counted the eight paces to the window and pulled it open. The warm breeze enveloped her as she exited to the roof. Tonight, she could smell the honeysuckle floating on the air. A night like tonight was the last one Elizabeth had enjoyed, slightly more than one-third of a century ago.

Barbara knew that on so many previous nights, her daughter Elizabeth had emerged from the same window to smoke. Unlike her daughter, though, Barbara limited herself to a solitary cigarette. She hadn’t smoked a puff in her life until her daughter had died. Since that night, she hadn’t missed a single night without smoking. Rituals demand adherents.

In the event of rain, Barbara would smoke under the overhang of the utility shed, just like Elizabeth. As the drops fell, they reminded her of the minutes her daughter failed to enjoy. Thousands of droplets, accumulating at her feet. At times, she imagined that she could feel each one as it fell.

David knew better than to question his wife. Contemplation requires tranquility, if not silence. Although he would never admit it, he loved his wife more for her dedication to the ritual of remembrance than almost any other thing. He couldn’t bring himself to join her on the roof, even as his absence sometimes drove a wedge between them. 33 years had failed to convince him otherwise.

Barbara measured her inhalations as she watched her quiet neighbors. If anyone now saw the glowing tip of her lit cigarette high on the roof, he or she no longer questioned it. Barbara’s loss was intensely private. When she finished the cigarette, she flicked it out into the yard. David didn’t mind. Collecting the butts was part of his ritual, one he did without comment. In his heart, he knew that one day he would give anything to have the chance to pick up after the people who were no longer with him.

Barbara paused on the other side of the roof, one leg draped over the windowsill. Elizabeth was somewhere out there, in a place of unknowing. Barbara sighed and headed back to her Lowenstein, even as her heart called into the blanket of night.
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