As well as could be conceived she had picked herself up. Picking at it. Leave it alone. Alone at last to last alone. On and on going on. Remembering when it was ongoing. Those line items. Items on the lines of those forms. Forms that formed her day for years and years of pay to spend. Spend and pay to stay with him. His name stirred laughter and tears. And . . . fear. Fear of all this time being cranked after his end. The end of him. To be followed by the end of so many silly phrases and words arranged in the oddest and amusing positions. Positions.
As well as could be conceived she was taking longer to straighten herself up. Lifting her face and eyes to a good enough vantage point to see where she was now. Lifting her face that must have gotten dirtied on the last stumble. Stumbling block. They used to make each other stumble over each other's sentences and induce the contagion of humor in one another's chests. Until it hurt. Contagion. How did he get it? That contagion. Poor diseased gentleman of a man. Typing all hours of the day. Those busy fingers. Those fingers. Searching for just the right entry point. He knew how to move you. He knew how to pull the curtain away until you saw there was nothing left. No form. No shape. No content. No origins in a mind emptied of the all engrossing project. Projects stopped coming. They did stop. Slithered to a halt. He pulled the curtain away and there was nothing back there. Back there where there seemed to be more color for both of you. Back there behind the curtain he pulled across your expectations and there was nothing left. He was right. Damn it all. He was right. Poor diseased gentleman. Laughed until it hurt. Crap! Did it hurt for him. He hurt. Held his hand that pulled the curtain back across those expectations. Nothing left. Except one thing. You always knew he expired for want of other food.
She limped on. As well as could be conceived she survived the last on many falls after surviving that wreck back there called your life. Events. Current events. 5th grade. Who? What? Where? When? Why? What was her favorite question to answer? It used to be "why?" But, now she knew it was "what?" Yes, now it was "where?" as in where was she? That wreck she left behind her was maybe miles back. Miles back where there used to be road. All that lie ahead was nondescript land until she noted all the citrus. And the anthracnose. Decaying colors. There was that. The sound of the exploding metal and the decaying colors and broken glass were far back there. As well as could be conceived she had survived and recovered from the last stumble. The last stumble to the ground. The last stumble. Expectations for the last one grew. Oranges competing with the anthracnose. They appeared to be succumbing. Just as she sensed her succumbing to the invitation of each subsequent fall. The ground was softer each time. Another bed perhaps. They had made it. They had slept in it. As well as could be conceived. Poor diseased gentleman. It hurt for him. Held his hand that pulled that curtain across your expectations. Tomorrow was crowding into today's devastation as well as could be conceived. She was laying on her stomach on the soft ground. Make her bed. Lie in it.
As well as could be conceived she wanted to sleep. And she was aware of her fingers. His fingers typing until about nothing behind that curtain. Poor diseased gentleman. Her fingers dug into the earth. The earth of the bedsheets around the citrus and the canker. Color was overcome. Succumbing just as she was to the soft ground. Her bed. The last stumble.
- Max Stoltenberg