Quilts

Author: James Sallis

“The sound of cicadas in the trees. Sunsets that look as though they’ll never end. Unexpected laughter. The way shallow pools of water look when sunlight breaks through again after a shower. The smell of fresh coffee.”
Our litany of lost things continues. Eighteen years together, and now it’s almost over. I’ll not see her face again, the stars’ cold fires about to become our own.
Amy pulls the quilt close about her. It’s one of those her mother made in the care facility, chiefly for something to do, something to fill the time. A shelf of our closet is stacked with them. This one boasts identical panels of clouds with sun peeking over, reminiscent of old Kilroy Was Here signs, and a border of stylized birds, dogs and cats. These will be gone too. The dogs and cats and birds. The quilts.
There’s music playing low, so low we barely hear it, on the computer; on its screen, the clock counts down. Remember the yule logs burning each year on television? Amy asks. People watched for hours and hours. Why would they do that?
All around us, it’s dark. No sound of cicadas. No traffic noise. Our lawn chairs give out thin, hollow pipings as we shift within them.
Earlier Amy told me she packed a kit of things that would be most useful, just in case. Even now it’s difficult to accept that hoping, knowing, being prepared – no survival kit will help.
“Children playing,” she says now. “Full moons so bright you can read by them. Frogs. Windows with rain running down. Fireworks. The ocean. ”
I point to the computer. “Music.”
“Fresh fruit.”
Amy stares off. “My father used to say there’s always another door, you just have to look for it.”
“If there is, this time it’s locked solid.”
“Yeah, well. He was an asshole anyway. What can you expect?”
We know, exactly, what to expect. But that’s neither here nor there. And there will soon be here.
By now we’re both weary of this game of What Will You Miss Most. What I’ll miss most is simply looking forward, not knowing, to what happens next.
So Amy and I sit here silently. Troubling the darkness, an unheavenly bright light starts up in the distance and rolls toward us. The computer screen, its countdown clock, tells us we have four, no three, more minutes.

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