It was the saddest thing. He thought about her every day. How many years had it been now? 40? 50 years since he left? He didn’t believe in ghosts, but he believed in Roberta. He believed in Roberta for she was always there, though, of course, she was nowhere. He had no idea where she was. Maybe still in Dayton. Why did he leave her in Dayton? Of all the places to leave her – a diner not far from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He had to leave, he knew that. Roberta knew that. He was being shipped out but why did he not return? It was the saddest thing to be married to a woman who wasn’t Roberta.
He would never admit it. He would never admit anything, but everyone could tell there was something missing in him.
Julie loved him. Julie adored him. Julie saw no wrong in him. And he loved Julie – he really did. But there are different kinds of love and one of the saddest things is that you can’t give all the kinds of love to one person. How could he have been so weak? Why had he chosen the easiest way to live? Why didn’t he realize that the easiest way to live can sometimes be the hardest?
They were eating pancakes. She had a milkshake. He always found it funny that she’d order a milkshake for breakfast. Pancakes, a milkshake. There were streamers still strung up along the windows and menu board; still reindeer cut outs; still a little tree by the register and a snowman painted on the front door of the diner even though it was late January. He remembered everything so clear. The Four Seasons were playing in the speakers, light enough for people to forget music was even playing. But he remembered. He remembered everything – the last time they saw each other not knowing it would be the last time they saw each other.
He felt such guilt. So often you don’t know your last kiss will be your last kiss. He roiled in loneliness – not during the holidays when you’re supposed to be around the ones you love (he loved Julie and she loved him) – but in late January. He also never ate pancakes again.
Story by Jonathan Shipley
Walter is gone now. He was never a big talker. What Betty, his wife, didn’t know was how much he communicated with his looks. His slide-long glances complimented her gossipy but good-natured stories in ways she did not fully appreciate until he was gone. That is when the color faded from her world. Betty’s had always been the place to go on the weekends — good food and a house filled with the warmth of neighbors and their laughter. They never had kids, so they welcomed everyone else into their lives. But with Walter absence, Betty lost her expansive and generous good humor. Gone now are the neighbors. Were did everyone go?
Story by David Robinson
Last April I was out. Driving around, looking for the year’s early yardsale. I thumbed through people’s less essentials; trying on their clothes, measuring furniture for space I still don’t have. It was a fast way to dismantle the who I thought I was, the petrified image of myself. It never measures up. The empty part and the full never speak to the whole. Anyways. I pieced together parts of lives with the things that people let go of, the same way I tried to let go of the life I was pieced.
On a lawn, early limbs fracture slanted light, disorienting, like Fall. I work my way through moist cardboard box records on faded oriental rugs. At once, present with the object in hand and also, aware of the coming and going, the passers, the byes. A woman wants a desk for her daughter’s move, thankful to have her back, a coming home. I’m onto the lamps, all crystal and brass and an old bowl full of the scrap wirings that didn’t pull through. A small girl, stacks books, counts quarters. A propped open piano bench. And there it is. Among old photos and magazine scraps, this polaroid. Some old couple I’ve never seen before. I can’t even place the period accurately, although the glasses probably give it away. I never could subscribe to time’s retraining nature.
Back, our sidewalk lemonade stand, my sister in her faded striped blue tank and me with my pants hiked up above my knees like the disheveled kid I was. Inside for a refill. A blast of cold air, anticipating a second blast with concentrate and freezer. The dark hall. Sometimes, you just know your future as it unfolds itself. You stand beside its birth. I pivot without reason, without option. The living room of our inherited house. Beautifully dead. My mom’s shape, wrapped in that slick thick green bloom patterned curtain. She must have gripped ahold before her last. What do you do with that? What can one do with an old polaroid backdropped with the curtain that fell with my mom?
Story by Brinson Leigh Kresge