Uncallused hands

My Jeremiah was a quiet man. Except when he wasn’t. He was mostly kind. I looked upon his body, and the sorrow was scorching. I wanted to cradle him. His eyes stared at nothing, pale green marbles marveling at death.

The man I married, who shared his bed with me, who gave me a lifeless child, was gone. His body was already gathering flies.

His hands were bloody; dark crimson was still spurting between his spread fingers. Those hands were not used to suffering, or hard work. There were no scars, no calluses, only smooth lines of flesh now savagely washed clean. The only callus was on the inside of his right forefinger, where he held his burlapped jug. I know it was a mean thought, a dark and sad thought, but my husband was not a working man; he was a resting man, content to drink corn liquor on the porch. And now he was not even that. What kind of wife would think such dark thoughts? I loved him, yes, but that also meant I knew him. What thoughts did he have of me, I wondered. He loved me, yes, but he also knew me. Horror flowed through me as I stared at his mostly pristine hands, forever and ever stained.

Could I leave him like that, just leave him? I stared at what was left of Gunth’s old house, and listened. Was the next shot for me? Would I hear it? Would it matter? Blessed apathy, I call your name, please gather my bones and give me a blanket.

The embers were still smoldering, and the building was black and white rubble. The charred beams glowed orange whenever a breeze touched upon them. But the fire was mostly done. Even Gunth’s old bentwood rocker, the one Jeremiah coveted more than anything else, wasn’t much more than whitened ash. If wood possesses a spirit, all those spirits had fled. Everything was dead here, unquietly dead, except for me. I waited and waited for the chamber to be emptied. Would I suffer, or would I clutch at my own death with gratitude? I waited for a long time, until the heat of the morning started to pour down on my neck and arms. I needed to leave this dead place while I still had a mind to think. Horror blessed me with the resolution to move.

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