It’s Halloween, and I’m sitting in my oldest son’s taekwando practice. Close to me, three mothers discuss various things. I let their conversation drift in and out of my head as I wrote this spooky little piece. Please forgive any typos; it came out in a rush.
“I just want them to play, but the little one starts digging,” says one mother. Her name is Jessica. She holds her pink-encased, glittery phone in her left hand as she scratches a lesion on her face with her right hand. She’s not an advanced case, so they let her out and mingle with the other mothers, all of whom are in various stages of the disease, but none so bad that Death has quit being polite and just barges the hell in, here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?
“Well,” says another mother–this one a small, blonde woman named Kathy who had fine features but now looks like the victim of an acid attack–“maybe you shouldn’t let them play in the graveyard.”
Jessica makes a disgusted face. “Let’s not call it that, please.”
“What the hell would you prefer?” asks Octavia crossly. She is the third mother (women aren’t allowed to gather in groups larger than three). Her red hair has started to fall out, but she’s styled it such a way as to minimize the damage. She looks almost normal from the right angle in the right light.
“The Resting Ground, as we’ve been taught,” Jessica replies and begins swiping on her phone. “No one likes my posts anymore. Dammit.”
“Because you’ve lost a kid,” Kathy says. “It brings people down.”
“But I have three more,” Jessica protests.
The other two women shrug. They know how it is, and Jessica does, too, even if she denies it.
“My youngest is the cutest thing,” Jessica goes on, loudly, as if others are listening. It’s just the three of them on a deserted street, but they’re never truly alone.
“The one who was digging in the graveyard?” Kathy says.
“The Resting Ground,” Jessica replies between her teeth.
Kathy and Octavia share a look. “The Resting Ground,” Kathy corrects herself.
“Yes, Baby Kenneth.” Jessica’s fingers fly on her phone as she searches for a picture of her child. “He’s very curious and very healthy!” she practically shouts as she holds her phone out for the other women to see.
“Adorable,” Octavia mutters, and Kathy just nods. Satisfied, Jessica closes the picture and goes back to her homepage. She scratches the lesion harder.
“How much longer do they say you have?” Octavia asks Jessica, not unkindly.
Jessica blinks several times before she answers. “I told them I didn’t want to know.”
“But Donald knows.”
Donald, Jessica’s beefy husband who nabbed a coveted job in the slaughter house last month, most certainly knows. Jessica has promised him not to tell her, and Donald is playing along so far. Unbeknownst to Jessica, he’ll wake up her up in the middle of the night three days from now and reveal her expiration date.
Jessica will visit each of her children and kiss their brows. She will linger the longest over Baby Kenneth, tasting his name in her mouth, tracing his eyebrows until touching him no longer feels real.