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Everywhere He Sees Her-Fiction by Oliver Lodge
Vegas Phoenix-Fiction by Steve Prusky
Bad Burger-Fiction by Willie Smith
Death and Forsythia-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Eileen-Fiction by Ray Valent
Eleventh Frame-Fiction by Bruce Harris
Regarding the Destruction...-Fiction by Matthew Lyons
The Next Step-Fiction by Nicholas Manzolillo
What Men Show Whores-Fiction by M. E. Purfield
You Should've Called Me-Fiction by Carol Sojka
At the Zombie Five and Dime-Reprint by Kenneth James Crist
Cassie-Reprint by Frank Zafiro
Nice Life if You Don't Weaken-Reprint by Michelle Reale
Old Aunt Sin-Reprint by Gary Lovisi
Yellow Mama-Reprint by Cindy Rosmus
Bald Baby-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Ruby-Flash Fiction by Liz McAdams
Widow's Might-Flash Fiction by M. C. Neuda
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning-Flash Fiction by Victor Clevenger
Sunday Evening-Flash Fiction by Victor Clevenger
Monday, Around Noontime-Flash Fiction by Victor Clevenger
The Woman on the Train-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
What Have Some of Us Become?-Poem by John D. Robinson
She Knows Something-Poem by John Lunar Richey
Harley Caress-Poem by Joe Balaz
The Unspoken Words-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
A Thunderstorm's Sideshow-Poem by David Spicer
Fruits, Vegetables, and Mindy's Topaz Eyes-Poem by David Spicer
Catherine-Poem by J.J.Campbell
Failures With Past Lovers-Poem by J.J.Campbell
Stomp-Poem by David Mac
Wilt?-Poem by David Mac
Carol of the Bells-Poem by Robert Beveridge
Eden-Poem by Robert Beveridge
Crazy, Crazy-Poem by Marc Carver
Love-Poem by Marc Carver
The Worst Poet in the World-Poem by Marc Carver
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

eileen.jpg
Art by Ann Marie Rhiel 2017

Eileen

 

by Ray Valent

 

 

Steven Broshears never accepted his wife's death. He was lost in a miasma of hallucination, not sure why his imaginary spouse could not respond to him. His frustration began to build into full fledged hallucination.

Steven sat in the old aluminum lawn chair, the metal frame pitted and discolored from decades of barbeques and dozens of outdoor family events.

A white wooden trellis archway surrounded Steven with climbing vines of morning glories and roses. His small garden held huge sunflowers bent over from the weight of their seed heads, which Steven tried to prop up with sticks and kite string. A thick carpet of pansies covered the ground, leaving a narrow path from the yard to his seat in the garden. In this floral onslaught, off to his right, stood three or four cherry tomato plants, easily within reach from his chair, which he picked and popped into his mouth every so often.

 Steven's wife, Eileen, had been cremated eleven months and three days before.  Steven mixed her ashes in the soil in his garden.  She was literally fertilizer. He felt comfortable here, but he didn't know why. He could not recall her passing, or what he had done with her remains. He just knew he felt close to her here in his garden.

Steven longed to be with Eileen again. His life had become a shambles. He lost his job, his friends and some say, his mind.

"Sometimes I think about bad things, honey."

 

 

 

Eileen was quiet today.

Steven Broshears was sitting at his dining room table staring at the plate of baked salmon and fresh steamed asparagus on the plate at the end of the table opposite him.

His own plate was empty. He had finished eating ten minutes ago.

Eileen’s was untouched.

“Not hungry again, Love?”

Steven stood and walked around the table to his wife’s seat, pulled back her chair and picked up the plate of cold food.

“Maybe tomorrow. You never seem hungry anymore, Love.”

Steven walked to the kitchen with Eileen’s plate, held it over the trash can and stared at the salmon steak, wondered how long ago that slab of fish was swimming in the Atlantic, free and vibrantly alive.

“Shame,” he said, and scraped the food into the garbage. He put the plate in the sink and ran some water over it.

“Go upstairs and get ready. I’ll draw your bath.”

Steven playfully swatted the air behind her, not connecting with Eileen’s behind. He frowned. He walked to the kitchen again, opened a cabinet and took out two wine glasses and placed them on the counter top. A small smile replaced the frown as he opened the refrigerator and took out the bottle of chardonnay.

Eileen’s favorite.

He poured both glasses three-quarters full, re-corked the bottle and placed it on the top shelf of the refrigerator and closed the door.

Steven stared at the two wine glasses on the counter top. He tried everything he knew to get her to pay attention to him; dinner, wine, poetry. Nothing seemed to move her. When they first met, she was vivacious, sensual, full of the wonderment of new love.

Lately, she was quiet, reserved and almost devout in her avoidance of him and any of his attempts at romance.

“You were the salmon, free in the infinite ocean. Now, you’re like the salmon steak; dead, lifeless on the plate, waiting to be consumed or discarded,” he said. He picked up the glasses and started up the stairs to the bathroom. Eileen would be undressing in their bedroom, and he might catch a glimpse of her if she left the door ajar. But as he passed the bedroom, the door was closed, just as he left it.

He placed the glasses down and sat on the edge of the tub, closed the drain and turned on the water. As the tub filled, he stood in front of the mirror and opened the medicine cabinet. The usual bottles of mouthwash, aspirin, band-aids, and assorted over-the-counter nonsense filled the thin glass shelves. Steve’s eye caught sight of a prescription bottle in the upper right-hand corner of the cabinet, a bottle of pain killers he was prescribed over a year ago for a recurring back injury.

“Oxycontin,” he mouthed the word softly.

He took the bottle and stuffed it into a pants pocket, downed one of the glasses of wine, turned off the tub and started to walk downstairs to the kitchen with the empty wine glass.

“Be up in a minute Hon. Take your time. The tub’s ready for you.”

 

Steven stopped halfway down the stairs and fixated on a photo of Eileen on horseback that was framed on the wall. How beautiful she was then. How full of life.

What had happened to her? To him? He spent all his time trying to engage with her and she shunned him, ignored him, as if he wasn’t there. As if SHE wasn't there,

He continued down the stairs to the kitchen.

“Can’t live like this. Can’t, WON’T be ignored any longer.”

Steven counted the pills that were left in the bottle: eighteen. More than enough.

He placed them in a cup and began to grind them into a powder with the back of a spoon until they were fine like sugar. He poured that into the wine glass and filled it three-quarters of the way with chardonnay.

He turned and began to ascend the stairs to the bathroom, glass of wine in hand. He clenched his free hand into a fist, a vein in his forehead began to throb.

“Done with begging. Can’t keep this up.”

Steven saw Eileen in the tub, submerged to her neck in bubbles, which hid her nakedness from him. Steven placed the wineglass on the vanity, clenched and unclenched his fists, and stared at Eileen’s head. He grabbed the glass that was already there and downed it, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and stared at her.

“Why can’t you look at me? Why don’t you speak to me? I’ve done everything for you and you act like I’m not even here!”

Eileen stared straight ahead, apparently deaf to Steven’s words.

Enough!

Steven clenched his jaw, opened his fists and lunged at her. He went for her throat, meaning to hold her head under the water, but his hands went through the air and into the water and came to rest at the bottom. He found himself kneeling on the tiled floor, his hands resting on the bottom of the tub, the spell broken, his imaginary Eileen vanished.

Steven was frozen for a moment, unsure what to do. He swept his right arm through the entire bath, searching the water: nothing.

Steven wrinkled his brow, cocked his head to one side.

He stood then, grabbed a towel and dried his arms.

His head was beginning to feel the effects of the wine, so he sat on the toilet lid and tried to think. He closed his eyes and realized what he had just attempted to do, and a tear rolled down his cheek.

Then he recalled the coffin being lowered, the flowers, the sobbing insincere well-wishers at the wake. The friends who stopped visiting, stopped calling. The months of loneliness with Eileen, trying to get a response from…

“From someone who was never there.”

He was ashamed. Steven stared at the glass with the powder in it for a long time.

From behind him came a familiar whisper. He turned, and there stood his Eileen, arm outstretched, beckoning him to hand her a glass of wine.

Steven picked up a glass and turned to give it to...no one. Just an empty bathroom wall. He stared at the wall with the glass in his hand. Reality eluded him for months. Now it was all too clear.

Then after what seemed like forever, he stood up, stripped off his clothes, and drank the last glass of wine, the one with the drug in it. Enough to kill Eileen.

“You won’t need it,” he said. "See you soon, Honey."

After a minute, Steven stepped into the bath tub, sunk down to his neck, closed his eyes and waited.






Ray Valent has about thirty published stories and is currently travelling the country with the love of his life in search of inspiration.

He likes to write stories about the intrusion of the mysterious into everyday mundanity. (Is that a word?)



eileenfooter.jpg
Art by Ann Marie Rhiel 2017

Art by Ann Marie Rhiel 2017

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017