Jesse Jarnow

dead bird, no. 5

(Being an attempt to write short fiction in even shorter increments…)

dead bird, no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10, no. 11

The wallpaper over the urinal repeated infinitely: a house, a river, a moose contemplating the dwelling from the opposite bank, some woods, another house. Somewhere between the woods and the house, the image began again, like an MC Escher illusion. This was the wallpaper in the bathroom at the coroner’s office.

My mother looked more or less like herself, except dead, her blonde-grey hair still in a ponytail. It had been a terrible fire, to be sure, but it was smoke inhalation that had gotten her, in the attic, while firemen below tried to put out the blaze.

“Yes,” I told the coroner, “that’s her.”

He nodded, and said he’d bought brownies from Mom at a few school bake sales.

“Yeah,” I said, “Brownies,” thinking about chocolate and looking at my dead mother’s still face out of the corner of my eye. I was still imagining the sugar on my tongue when I drove by the burnt house at dusk.

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