FICTION January 7, 2011

What They Did with the Body

The widow Reed told her children to come to the table. She poured Dominic a glass of milk, and filled Doreen's sippy cup with apple juice. "Kids," she called again, "come on. It's your favorite."

"Just a second Mom," called Dominic, from the living room.

Mrs. Reed laid out three plates, two sets of silverware, and Doreen's plastic airplane spoon. She put the spaghetti pot next to the children's origami Thanksgiving centerpiece, which was one year old and still resembled a turkey. She stirred the meatballs in, breaking them into bite-sized chunks with the serving spoon.

She checked the night through the open blinds. She flicked them closed. Things were quiet here without Mr. Reed and his son. She felt old tonight, and counted out the years she would have left if she still had half her life, and counted out the years if she had used two thirds. Her fingers were tight and swollen from all the old rings she still wore. They still stank of the liquid wrench she had used to pry those rings off.

It would be three years before she could change her name without it looking suspicious. It would be several more before she could annul the marriage, because legally her husband would never die. It had only been three weeks and the children no longer asked after their father.

Mrs. Reed went into the living room. "Slowpokes," she said, "what's your mischief?"

Doreen stood naked in the center of the room, simple and easy as a candle's flame. Her arms were stiff at her side and her eyes focused on something just beyond the walls of their home. "She's taken off her clothes again," said Dominic. They were scattered all around the room.

"I can see that," said the widow Reed. Dominic was pulling her underpants up her legs.

"Sometimes she can be so ignorant," he said. It was the family euphemism. He meant she was being retarded again. He was not supposed to say it that way – was not supposed to blame her, under any circumstances, for what was God's handiwork.

When Doreen was dressed they would gather at the dinner table. Dominic would feed Doreen with his own silverware while she made the airplane spoon fly. Mrs. Reed would tell them all about her day, and the jokes she heard at work, and Dominic would smile knowingly at her, as if they shared something.

As for Mr. Reed's heart, that was his widow's business.

Mike Meginnis has fiction, poetry and essays published or forthcoming in The Lifted Brow, Hobart, The Collagist, elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, Kill Author, The Contemporary Review of Fiction, and others. He currently serves as a managing editor of Puerto del Sol, and co-edits Uncanny Valley ( with his wife, Tracy Bowling.