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Fiction

The Coincidences of Sadness

     Sunday afternoon, and the bright blue skies of autumn were slowly being pushed back into memory by the on-coming of that three-month-long cloud layer that covered the world in the perfect color of nothingness, and made the coldest season the master of suffocation and withdrawal.

 

     Cars slowly tiptoed along the winding roads in St. Monica’s Cemetery, their drivers feeling cumbersome and conspicuous. At random places the cars would cringe to a halt and slow families would pick their way in reluctant wanting through the graves, to the one spot that meant something to most of them. There, they would stop and stand, and one or two of the family members would stoop to replace faded plastic flowers with new. The ones not bending would stare off at different points, at different distances, and try to make the uncomfortable feeling of being in the moment go away. Or search for, or hide from, ghosts.

 

     St. Monica was sprawling and old, the only cemetery in town, and it was where most of the dead were buried. Sunday afternoons brought a steady, quiet stream of people marking birthdays or anniversaries or death-days, or those whose regular rituals included a visit, like Alvin Alvin.

 

     Mr. Alvin watched the cars crawl by as he was leaving the cemetery. It was his practice to visit his wife on late Sunday mornings, rain or shine, and then walk the short few blocks into town to have a bite to eat at the diner on Franklin Avenue. He was wrapped against the wind, with a bag slung over his shoulder—one he only took with him on his visits to Marie.

 

     As he approached the gates to leave, he was confronted by a murmur of blue-uniformed boys—cub scouts—gathering, and dispersing, and flowing in the direction of the cemetery gates like a flock of bluebirds. Mr. Alvin crossed over the threshold out, as the boys crossed over the threshold in, and one of them pressed into his hand a flier, without a word, and darted past to join his flock. Mr. Alvin stopped for a moment to look at what he had been handed, and then continued down the sidewalk in the direction of lunch.

 

     A little girl had lost a dog. The scouts had adorned themselves in chivalry for its rescue and return. They had made fliers to pass out, each with a picture of a goofy looking black lab, sitting with a little girl in a blue princess dress, under a bright Christmas tree, and a telephone number to call in case the dog, whose name was ‘Thorvald,’ was found. Mr. Alvin studied the image of the silly dog and the little girl, who was now without her friend, and he waded upstream through his thoughts to the diner.

 

     He sat at a table in the front window by himself quietly, in a room full of twos and threes and fours talking and laughing. A young man brought him coffee in a white porcelain mug, and took his order for a BLT on wheat and left, and Mr. Alvin spread the scout’s flier out on the table top and studied it again. With the Herculean effort required of extreme gentleness, he opened his bag and gingerly fluttered through papers inside. He drew one out and laid it on the table next to the dog’s picture.

 

     It was another flier, announcing the memorial service for Marie Thorvald Alvin, at the Ashivo Gardens and Greenhouse, open to all, burial service at graveside for family and invited guests.

 

     Mr. Alvin put the memorial flier back in his bag, and folded up the dog’s flier and put it in his coat pocket.

 

     When the young man brought out his BLT, Alvin Alvin was looking out the diner window at the cold gray street, and the passing cars, and the sky the perfect color of nothingness.

 

 

Jim Naremore is part of the wave of new and emerging authors and poets in Indianapolis. His first novel, “The Arts Of Legerdemain As Taught By Ghosts”, will be published later this year by Belle Lutte Press. Most recently, Jim has had (or will have) short fiction published in Halfway Down the Stairs, Emrys Journal, Elohi Gadugi Journal, and Akashic books. Ever since its unveiling in downtown Indianapolis, Jim has had the slightly disconcerting feeling a 30-foot Kurt Vonnegut mural has been watching him. And possibly smirking. But that’s probably his imagination. The smirking, he means.