The Eleven O’clock News

Chella Courington

Chella Courington

She falls asleep hearing rebels fire into the night. When she wakes, a man in olive drab with shreds of ribbon above his left pocket sits across from her.

How long have you been there? she asks.

Since before you were born, he says.

He pulls a pack of Pall Malls from his pants, hands bony and bruised like a Rorschach blot—she sees a cloud growing.

Where is the ashtray?

I no longer smoke, she says. I paint our old brown hills in tawny oils and drink black tea, write stories of men with discolored skin and read about Septimus Smith losing his way in war.

Don’t you dance in the streets with young men anymore? he asks.

Never in the streets, she says. And certainly not with young men home from Iraq. They have wives and children.

Not all, he says. Some are unencumbered. Others have been deserted.

But none are for me, she says.

His ashes fall to the floor. And slowly a wind disperses them until they appear gone, mixed with dust and hair and crumbs of toast eaten long ago.

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