by Andrew Riconda

Babe, you and I could be so happy together, just like in that old song, so wildly happy forever, if only that kid of yours got herself misplaced forever, Babe. 

You know I have no use for children—never have, never will. You had an inkling, no? You often nag me-- ask me, I mean-- to spend a little quality time with her, let her read to me her latest poem about puppies. But you can see the expression on my face—you must know. But because she is a limb of your tree, of your love, I must love her too, you figure. I don’t. I know she says I hate her. I don’t. I just don’t get her point, her purpose. 

I understand you’d never be able to wrap your heart/head around the real deal—unless you read this, and I’m certainly not going to allow that to happen! Once, early on, you asked me where I stand on the issue of children. And I, as the politicians say, pivoted. But where I stand, where I’d like to stand, ever so firmly, so literally, would be atop her unmarked grave. 

But nope, no notion: you! But that’s who you are, it’s what makes you you, and I love you! I wanna love just you. Only you. LOVE, crazy and lopsided, just like in that postage stamp from years ago, enough for two! But not for 3. 

 Am I being selfish? Well, let’s talk about that unmarked grave. 

Granted, me not going to jail (imagine me and you—and me away from you!) would seem to necessitate an unmarked grave for her tiny, pointless body, and on the surface that seems self-serving. But I submit it’s all for you, Babe, and that under that wormy, maggoty dirt of a surface is-- dare I say it?—profound selflessness. 

What’s the point of X marking the spot, who needs that locus-focus—“You Are Mourning Here”—when you will be mourning in your heart forever—with me right by your side. I think a more diffused mourning is better for you, Babe, really. You ever drive up I-95 and see those DIY highway death markers? When I see them I always think, “Overkill.” It’s just selfish of those people. It serves no purpose other than to possibly cause another accident, get someone else killed! I understand they’re in pain—but you’re better not knowing the exact where; we’re all better off. (Sometimes I pull over and toss those markers into the bushes.) And, pragmatically, it could be years before your little angel is declared dead and gets the whole casket and headstone ensemble, so an unmarked grave actually saves on gas. 

Whoa! The windows just blew open again on the porch and all my papers are scattered about, dancing in the air, and a couple of pages gusted out the window! That could be problematic, but not much to do about it now. This is going to be another Super Storm, and it’s going to hit us pretty bad here, they’re saying. The lights have been flickering all night; they’re worried about trees taking out the power lines. 

A bad storm, Babe, and like the song says: you’re not here, no blue skies…

But you’re on the way. And, hey, wouldn’t it be a wonderfully right night for disaster to befall that little pony-tailed, sixty pound, freckled impediment to that you-me firmament? 

My wishy thinking got a little scattered with my papers. Back to my-side bias:

We’ve considered the practicality of it all, the bottom line (and what should go beneath it); let us now consider the higher ground, the heavens. 

So, consider that other interloper: I think of God. Yes, God, Babe, I said it. Sometimes I do think on Him. You’re a very religious person and you know I’m not. More people have been killed in the name of religion than anything else—not that there’s anything wrong with that. I know you think I don’t believe, but it’s not that-- I just don’t get His point, either.

The hurricane is moving along, leaving death in its wake, and, somewhere in its path, a tree will crash through one person’s house and not another’s, one neighbor lives and the other dies, and the one who lives will say, “God was watching over me! It was a miracle.” But doesn’t that mean God wasn’t watching over the crushed? Makes no sense. I can allow for His existence, but only as a passive God, TiVo-ing to get caught up on everything He missed when the pizza was delivered. He is The Great I Am Not Pro-active.

And no one knows this better than He. He’s learned His lesson. I think of God, second-guessing Himself with Abraham: “Hey, Abie, I woke up on the wrong side of My Universe this morning--let’s put this whole kill-your-son megillah aside.” But He should’ve had the wherewithal to stay the course. He is God, after all. What kind of example is that to set? And you don’t see Him meddling much after that, do you? (I also find it very distressing that no one ever talks about Abe, Jr. in all of this, tied to an altar, looking at his father, who shrugs, “God said not to kill you, so I’m not going to kill you.” That poor kid, gosh. My heart goes out to him, and with no therapists in the Old Testament, either!)

Oh, the police are here. 

Okay, I’m back! It was nothing. They’re going door-to-door advising everybody that a mandatory flood evacuation in effect, but they’re not really enforcing it. The cop handed me a flier with the address of the evacuation center nearby—but I’m staying. Waiting. Waiting for you. And her, too, I now realize. For a moment there, I thought it was over for me, that everything would be seen, known, by everyone, by you. And now I see that’s just not how it’s going to be, and Our Song is playing loudly—even though I know it isn’t (I'm not crazy): So. Happy. Together.

Thinking about you. Babe. The Wind. God. Her. Limbs. Breakable. The Answer. Which is also the Question. And that Question is: Isn’t a tree killing a small child really the bigger miracle? I mean, trees miss killing children all the time…

    And maybe when the two of you get here, you’ll ask me all concerned, how the weather is (just like in the song!), and I’ll reassure you—and perhaps even her! 

And the three of us will do something together—like you always are asking (nagging) me to—and after you’ve had a few too many because storms scare you (and because I’ve put a little extra something in yours), we will go stand in my violent backyard, toss the dice (just like in the song!), and stand not too far from the old, old tree back there. The one that almost comes down when I pass wind.

    Yeah, let the tree decide. Or your God. Only He can make one, right?-- or so Joyce Kilmer says. (FYI, He died young, too: the leading Roman Catholic poet and lecturer of his time, and God chose in that mysterioso way of His to put a sniper’s bullet right through his thirty-one-year-old brain. And, he is NOT forgotten!) 

So: I’ll ask Him to make up His mind for us—kind of a Reverse Abraham Dealio—and we’ll see if He answers, and if it’s the right one for me—Oh, here you two are!!—and if it’s the right one for me, I swear I’ll start attending church every Sunday with you as soon as you are comfortable in your grief. I’m at the end of the page now, writing small. And if not, if it’s not the right answer for me, if He decides not to rule in my favor, and punish the wicked, well then, I guess this will be the last sentence I ever write…


Just a quick addendum on my iPhone’s Note App. 

Gotta be quick, in the hospital waiting room, away for a moment—it’s touch and go for you and I will be by your side! And it’s already touched and gone for that kid of yours. Boy, when He wants to make His Point He literally does! Whew! Right through that tiny heart! I even heard a nurse say, “They must’ve needed an angel in heaven,” but I thought it best to let it slide this one time, and went to the side of the room to blow the grief in my nose into her poem about Noodle the Poodle.

And somewhere this morning, church bells are ringing, somewhere away from this (overused word) tragedy, I can hear them calling and calling, synchronizing me to my New Song, one I don’t even recognize yet (oddly though, it sounds a little like “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport”—which I’m rather ambivalent about honestly), but now this Song, whatever it is, is mine, and His, beckoning the faithful, me, calling, calling, to come to the collection plate and invest a dime, calling, imagine that, imagine Him and me, and it makes me wonder, Babe, if there will be room enough for you at all now, now that our song is no longer ours, and what with all the upcoming mourning and all the physical therapy you’re going to need for years to come, bells, chiming, calling, calling, on this azure-skied day, calling, calling, calling me forever more to His purpose, calling, calling… forever.

God, don’t be such a nag, God!

My stories have appeared in The Amherst Review, Criminal Class Review (Vols. 3 & 6), Oyez Review, PhantasmagoriaRio Grande ReviewWatchword (Vols. 6 & 7), The William and Mary Review and Manslaughter Review. My first published piece of crime fiction was selected by Otto Penzler and Harlan Coben for inclusion in The Best American Mystery Stories 2011.Other stories are set to appear in Crimespree Magazine and Spinetingler Magazine in 2017.