Appeal — flash fiction by Dan DeMarco

Avoid asking questions that begin with why. These questions sound like, Why did you have to die? Why did you have to die like this? Why did you have to die before me? You aren’t really looking for an answer when you ask this kind of question. You’re looking for an assurance that your wife’s death was not simply a cruel accident, that these things are maintained by a higher order, that the death of your wife was a necessary part of some incomprehensible divine plan. You must completely expel these thoughts from your mind if you are to have any success in your encounter with your dead wife. Since she entered the afterlife your wife is no doubt in some sort of metaphysical state, transcending the limitations of the physical, and so from this vantage point it is likely that she can see well into your past and understand every thought and feeling you experienced toward her while she was alive: every white lie you ever told her, every girl you may have fantasized about replacing her with, every time you secretly wished she was dead. Do not dwell on the fact that she knows all of these things. You will only have time to ask your wife a single question. Depending on how fast you’re able to transcribe her messages, her reply could go on for several seconds. And so with this extremely reduced time window to work with, you would be well advised not to entertain open-ended cosmic notions, such as the possibility that your wife was taken from you as some sort of divine punishment. Everything has been cast in a different light now; small, formerly inconsequential memories have taken on a new, horrible significance — like the time all the way back in high school, when you told your friend you would sell your soul just to get a girlfriend, and you met her the week after. Like the night you and she first made love, the sticky summer air floating in through the screen in her open window, enveloping your bodies on the floor as she moved on top of you, whispering “Damn you, damn you, damn you” in your ear. All of this is to say, you must, under no circumstances, have your predestined place in the afterlife become a topic of this otherworldly interrogation. If it is revealed that you two are destined to remain eternally apart from one another, you would most likely lose emotional grip. Likewise, if you greet the ghost of your dead wife with silence or uncertainty, you risk undermining everything. Your wife may answer your silence with silence of her own, and by the time you manage to splutter out a greeting, or a half-hearted question, she will have already faded back into the ether. Or, your wife may commandeer the silence to ask questions of her own. She may choose to interrogate you about the fantasies of infidelity you entertained that she can now see quite clearly. She may ask you why you shied away from the thought of having a child with her. She would ask you these questions, even though she already knew the answers, to see what you would say. But it would still be preferable to be asked this way than to be asked a question that begins with why. These questions sound like, Why don’t you pray for me anymore, like you used to? Why did you take down that framed picture in the living room, of us smiling and holding each other under what used to be our tree in the park? Why do you avoid bringing me up in conversation, or even bringing up things related to me, like that movie that I always quoted, or the song that I would sing every morning? Why are you trying to forget me? You are already quite drunk and the letters on the board you bought from the mall are swimming in front of you. There is a possibility that nothing will happen at all. There is a possibility that your wife just doesn’t exist anymore, anywhere. When you are left alone, sitting on the floor in front of the toy-store Ouija board, drunk and red-eyed, plastic planchette unmoving in your hands, there’s no telling what you might do. You’re so old now. Take a deep breath. Think of her. This is your window. Ask.

Dan DeMarco’s work has previously been published in Hobart Literary Journal. Find him on Twitter @itsdandemarco

Image courtesy of Teddy Kelley via unsplash.

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Originally published at Fiction Attic Press.

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