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38th Short-Short Fiction Award Winner

Marcia Peck - Minnetonka, Minnesota

Memento Mori
By Marcia Peck

Did I ever tell you about the boy I once met on a train, somewhere in Switzerland? 

I was sixteen, all instinct, little analysis.  But you would have liked him.  He was older—all of eighteen or twenty.  And nice.  No match for you, of course.  But well-mannered, good-looking in a way that suggested fortune smiled on him. His English was proper.  It wasn’t a long journey.  Basel to Zurich, I think.  He mentioned that he wanted to study in the States.  He had ambitions.  We exchanged a handshake and addresses. 

 
Back home, I told my father about him, as I had promised.  My father was a teacher.  He believed in education.  He welcomed the chance to host a fine young man.  All was arranged.
But weeks before he was due to arrive, his parents sent the memorial card with his photo and a note.  Swiss roads are mountainous and icy.
That was fifty years ago. 

***

 

What made me think of him today?  Did he whisper in my ear after all this time? “Remember me…” 

 

Who says the dead don’t long to be with us? 

 

I’ve spent the intervening years on other trains and other continents, talking to other people I’ve long forgotten.  My years are salted with good fortune and mistakes, some greatly regretted.  I’ve planted daffodils, performed hundreds of Beethoven 5ths, met you, nursed our infant daughter.  You taught me to drive a stick, to like bourbon, to tell the difference between a common button mushroom and a deadly Amanita.  I’ve collected rocks, been stung by bees. 

 

I’ve watched the years settle on your face.  Life has let me do all that. 

 

But not him.

 

His name was Willy Pavanne. 

 

***

 

One day one of us will lose the other.  Perhaps loss will burn itself into us slowly over time. Or come as quickly as the sudden sound of an accident. 

 

But if I die first, listen for a whisper at your ear.  Trust your instinct.  It will be me, urging you to remember me. Longing to be with you. 

Marcia Peck’s writing most recently appears in Tribute to Orpheus 2 (Kearney Street Books) and Open to Interpretation: Fading Light (Taylor and O’Neill).  “Long Distance” (Flashquake) received a Pushcart Prize nomination. Water Music was runner-up for the Faulkner-Wisdom award for an unpublished novel.  She is a cellist with the Minnesota Orchestra. 
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