by Lynn Alexander
She was a dead woman now, stripped of any potential for speech or communication, hearing nothing, saying nothing, silent-brained and still. Whatever was in her head was stuck in an eternal freeze-frame, or else looping, unless it had left her entirely, death’s second, the moment of flatline the subject of scientific speculation but remaining largely misunderstood, as far as he knew. Who knew where her thoughts went? Who knew where they went in ordinary moments, in moments unrelated to a death, who knew where anything went in the brain or when it left.
There was nothing to her muscles, she was crumpled along her slumped spine. Her sweaty face now dried, she looked canine, her large nose pointing outward like a sniffing snout.
It was pointing west, in the direction of Delsano, a town of approximately eleven hundred people, one of which was a lifeguard at the community pool and who regularly tested the water using a set of small tubes and a chemical kit. He kept it very chlorinated.
The last day that this woman had been in the water of the community pool, her skin smelled like chlorine for hours, and when she tasted her own wrist at a stop sign, a young Delsano boy saw her through the window of the car. He was scratching at some dirt with a stick.
He looked up and there she was, lapping away like a cat.
He was writing the letter “x” in the dirt, which marked the spot for imaginary treasure, which was forgotten when he saw the woman licking her wrist through the window, treasure, these new secrets- secrets, the strange things adults did, he wanted more of them. He wanted different things than what he wanted the day before.
That night the moon was obscured, clouds moved in, and a young boy in Delsano frightened his mother by licking her skin in the night, crawling along the floor next to her bed until he came to her wrist, taut then fallen at a dangle at the hand which was open, the fingers pointing down in the direction of a small village on the other side of the world where a man was writing a return address on an envelope.
In the envelope: a request for a catalog, the company sold products that had to do with cooking, products that were silicone and brightly colored –unnecessarily.
The man was very optimistic about the use of silicone, he once thought it could be used to make hair curlers, soft gel-filled silicone rods that would yield a nice wave with enough variation to look natural, unset.
The woman died in an industrial scene, having never been licked clean.
He left her there, by the hum of the machines, where unseen blowers sloughed heat from hidden parts, their smell of dead electric, the excretions of secret machinations, secret gears, hot and proprietary.
Her curls stayed in place, in her intended ways, springs contrived, sprayed, in the shapes she made them, spiral shapes forged by metal cylinders, not silicone.