the silence by jadamthwaite

21 Mar

“I’d like to dispel a few myths about death. The first being that it is not the end. Not that I am any great expert. I’ve only been dead a week.” Marie steps down from the low stage. “But it is – absolutely and unequivocally – the end.” She stops in front of a small woman with tight white curls and a lavender jumper. “Your life,” she says, shaping the dough of the words with her hands, “will end.”

– Phht!

Sheila pushes the button angrily and Marie flickers off the screen.

“How dare they? Do they think it’s not hard enough without putting her all over every bloody channel all the time?” Sheila flings the remote into the sofa cushions. “And that film of all films.”

Jack reaches for her hand. They stare at their reflections in the empty screen.

“Remember when she auditioned for that one?” Jack says.

Sheila nods.

They lean into the numb silence, their hands entwined like woven straw. The TV stares blankly into the room.

“Remember her first real audition?” Sheila says. Her voice is hoarse and crunchy.

Jack has to smile. “Yeah… she was only a kid. Still used her own name back then.”

“And they made her hug that boy!

Jack clucks with laughter. “Bless her. She did it though, didn’t she?”

“That’s our Marie. Made of steel, that one.” A thin smile trickles across Sheila’s lips. She locks her eyes on the pile of folded newspapers on the coffee table.

The silence flops over them again.

Sheila dabs an embroidered handkerchief beneath her eyes and Jack runs his thumb across the thick, blue lettering on his mug. “BEST DAD,” it says. He remembers his fortieth birthday, nine year old Marie springing into the bedroom with a cup of pale tea and a clumsy bacon sandwich. She made him put his glasses on before he drank the tea so that he would notice the mug.

“Most people don’t get to see their kids on TV, do they?” Jack murmurs. “I s’pose we’re lucky.”

“It’s never her,” Sheila says flatly. “It’s always just a character.”

She keeps her eyes on the headline at the top of the pile: Actress Marcia Mayville Dies, Aged 42.

On the mantelpiece, an antique brass carriage clock clicks loudly to itself. Sheila’s eyes melt into the pictures around it: Marie’s first day at school, Marie before an awards ceremony, Marie holding a snake at the zoo…

Sheila looks up at Jack, her eyes wild and wet. “Do you think we could just pretend that she’s away on a job? Can’t we just pretend she’s not really dead? Just for today.”

A heavy tear spills from Jack’s eye. “Yes,” he says softly. “Yes, let’s do that. Just for today.”

He covers the newspaper with a cushion. Sheila picks up the remote and fires it at the television.

– Phht!

“Death,” Marie was saying, clasping her hands on the ledge of a solid lectern, “is the end of every part of your life that made it worth living. It’s like watching a film with the sound off or eating an ice cream without tasting it. All of your senses are silent. Death is silence.”

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4 Responses to “the silence by jadamthwaite”

  1. jmforceton March 21, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

    Just a great response to this prompt. As I said in another post, I could not think of a good story around what I saw was an parodox

    Really did enjoy your story. A story well conceived and well told.

    • jadamthwaite March 30, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

      Thank you. I had trouble of thinking of a story for this prompt too. I started out with the film that Marie ended up being in, but it was just far too big and idea for a story this short. Maybe it’s something I can explore further one day.

  2. juleshg March 27, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    THis is so sad. I love how they look to each other for permission to live the day in denial and take a break from their grief. They know that he/she is the only one who truly understands their grief.

    • jadamthwaite March 30, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

      I’m glad you felt it worked. It turned out not to be about Marcia Mayville so much as Jack and Sheila in the end, but never mind!

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