Sunday, March 15, 2009

Smolder by Sammie Jo Moresca

Brooklyn New York, The Day After Thanksgiving, 2003

"I brought you a turkey with Swiss on white. From Vinnie's." Johnny Newman placed the sandwich and a half pint of skim milk on the rough granite tombstone. Squatting, he ran his soot-stained hand over the lettering.

MARCH 21, 1970--SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

His eyes halted on the Maltese cross. He bowed his head and crossed himself.

"Two years ago today, Brandon. We found you ... your hand." He cleared his throat as he fought the saline escaping from both eyes. "Susan's okay now. Man, it was bad on her. She wanted to join you. We had to do an intervention. She spent a couple weeks in the hospital. Your mom and I, we took turns staying with her when she got back home.

"Anyhow, I just wanted to bring you the sandwich. I haven't eaten at Vinnie's anymore since..." He exhaled.

"And I wanted to let you know not to worry about Susan. She's gonna make it all right. And, um, I'm gonna keep lookin' out for her. What I'm tryin' to say is, I love Susan. Well, of course you already knew that. But I mean ... I'm in love with her. It's not the September Eleventh widow syndrome thing either. I didn't move in on her a couple weeks after..."

An ambulance wailed by. Johnny sat back on his heels. He picked a thick blade of grass and entwined it in his fingers, pulling it so tight the tips turned red. "Did ya know eight guys left their wives and kids for the widows? Jesus. Shunned one family in favor of another. The psychologists they sent around tried to explain the phenomenon. They warned us there would be affairs. I swear I haven't touched her. And I've kept the wolves away. Johnson and Caruthers. Friggin' bastards. Can you believe it?" Johnny yanked a handkerchief from his pocket and blew his nose. "She's a beautiful woman and all, but they should've had more respect for you ... and Susan, than that." He stood up and unwrapped the sandwich, straightening it on top of the headstone. The white paper flapped under it.

"Anyhow, I just wanted to have a talk with you first. I wanted to let you know my intentions. I've got no idea how Susan feels toward me. But I'll tell you one thing, buddy. I plan on standing in Times Square, watching the ball drop and kissing my fiancée to ring in the New Year." Johnny opened the milk container and placed it next to the sandwich. He crossed himself and walked down the path.

A nun called out, "You can't leave trash here. Remove it."

Johnny smiled and closed the gate behind him.

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