By Dolores Whitt Becker
Blood glistens on bare wood. Neither the body that was wounded nor the one that caused the wound remains in the spare, rough-timbered room, lit only by the moon and stars. The blood is fresh, still wet; if it were not winter it would still be warm. The floorboards have only just begun to take it in.
Just outside the open door, a woman sprawls face-down in the snow, coughing out her last breaths. She feels very little, but that little is mostly satisfaction. Her final act is defiant – she lived too long in that cabin; she is not going to die in it.
The man who’d left her on the floor inside had figured she was close enough to dead. Over the barrel of his Beretta he’d explained that after he shot her, he would set the cabin ablaze and shoot himself – but then he drove off in the truck a minute later without telling her why, as usual. Perhaps he decided he needed more kerosene to properly torch the place; it would be just like him to come up with his grand plan and start it without making sure he had everything he needed first. More likely, he lost his nerve and went to town to search every tavern till he found and would substitute dying in a fiery wreck for putting the gun barrel into his mouth. Even as he’d told her what was going down this evening, she’d doubted he would stick to Plan A. He never did.
Maybe he bought the kerosene and then hit the bars. That would be just the thing to have in the passenger seat when he drove off the road, his eyeballs swimming in bourbon and a hand-rolled cigarette stuck to his lower lip.
They will find her, when they come to tell her about the crash, after she doesn’t answer the phone; she’ll be waiting for them out in the snow with a ragged hole in the smooth, not-quite-flat belly on which he had, in rare and glorious tender moments, rested his head. There she’ll be, and what will they say? What will they think? Who knows what nonsense is, even now, running from his mouth?
What does it matter – what anyone thinks, or how or when or if he dies? Even if he makes it home and hauls her carcass back inside and actually completes steps two and three, she will have spoiled it for him. Her universe has narrowed down to that. It takes all the strength she has left to curl her fingers into a fist — all but one, tall and proud in the middle of her hand. She releases her last breath in soundless laughter.
Dolores Becker is a wandering Cheesehead currently living in Batavia. She has a considerable collection of unfinished and/or unpublished writings of various shapes and sizes. ‘Farewell Gesture’ is her first attempt at flash fiction.