Read by Sarah Feathers1) Mark Hamilton’s sister will call at 4:07 a.m. on June 18th the year you are 24, from Germany, where Mark was airlifted because of an IED. You’ll up when she calls, not because she calls, getting ready to go to work at the chain bakery “That loves to feed ‘ya.”
2) Sit on the edge of your bed, staring at her name on the Caller ID. Consider not answering. No good calls come before dawn. Not the year you’re 24. Not the year you’re 32 either.
4) Swallow the Lincoln log that lodges in your throat.
5) Say thank you. Say I’m sorry. Say of course I’ll call friends. Say do you need the dog walked?
6) Walk your own dog and look for shooting stars.
7) Drive three miles to Mark’s sister’s house. Call in sick to work while you’re walking Ginger. Clean up the mess Ginger left on the floor and take out the trash. Poor dog, alone in the house for 18 hours.
8) Put Ginger in the passenger seat of your car, fastened in with your dog’s doggy seatbelt harness.
9) Go home. Start writing down memories of Mark because you’re afraid you’ll forget. Start with when you met, when you were in 8th grade and he was in 9th, at the skate rink. Write these memories on the computer. Save frequently. Trust me on this.
10) Realize you haven’t cried yet. Wonder if this makes you unfeeling. Be grateful to Mark for deciding, just before he deployed, the two of you shouldn’t date. Hate him a little for it, too.
11) Mark Hamilton’s sister will call again at 10:42 a.m. with details about the funeral. Realize you haven’t started calling friends yet. Pour yourself two fingers of whiskey, neat. Make it three.
12) Don’t drink. You will regret it. Whiskey feels worse coming up. Stare at the glass instead.
13) Make a list of people you should call.
14) Promise yourself you won’t leave messages.
15) Start making calls. Cross off the name of each person you’ve called. Don’t let your voice break. Don’t let yourself cry.
16) Finish the calls before noon and decide you want to nap. Take the whiskey with you, still three fingers, and put it on the bedside table you found dumpster-diving near the college just after you graduated.
17) Stare at the ceiling and wish for dreamless sleep.
18) Wonder if you should call your parents and let them know. Decide you’ll call later. Probably. Spoiler: you’ll never call, but you should.
19) Lose the day.
20) Go to work the next day and pretend everything’s fine. Take Adderol, bought from your ex to help you focus.
21) Lose days until the funeral and forget to eat, but don’t miss work. You’ve got bills to pay.
22) Wear a red sweater and grey skirt to the funeral, even though it’s May and hot already. Mark loved that sweater, complimented you whenever you wore it.
23) Grief will make you skinnier. After the funeral, friends will ask how you’re doing. Lie.
24) Find Mark’s family. Hug his sister and hand his nephew a teddy bear in a Marine Corps uniform.
25) Shake hands with Mark’s brother-in-law and parents. You don’t know them well. You won’t see them again.
26) Get in your car and drive to get lost.
27) Consider leaving everything you know. You’ve always wanted to see how you’d do on your own, starting over from scratch. Nix the idea. Now is not the time for rash decisions. You’ll ignore this advice, but you shouldn’t.
28) Pull out your map, but don’t unfold it. Remember the time you got lost on the way to a wedding with Mark, the year before. You’ll smile when you think about how you made out in a gas station parking lot. You wore a yellow dress printed with hibiscus.
29) Put the map away. Follow country roads and highways past dead gas stations and fields of sunflowers, past fields of oil derricks half idle and crumpled skyscrapers, past cornfields and a sign that advertises Jesus and a truck stop 9 miles ahead, until you find your way home.
(c) Liz N. Clift, 2013
Liz N. Clift's fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Booth, Tulane Review, Hunger Mountain, Green Mountains Review, and others. She lives in the western United States. Find more of her writing by visiting: fractalsandfrost.blogspot.com
Sarah Feathers trained at East 15. Theatre work includes Country Magic (Finborough Theatre), All You Ever Needed (Hampstead Theatre), A Hard Day’s Month (Rose Theatre, Kingston), 26 (BAC), Moll Flanders (Southwark Playhouse) and The Winter’s Tale. Film includes Coulda Woulda Shoulda, Feeling Lucky and More Than Words. Television includes The Real King Herod.