Helen McClory

What Can Be Endured May Yet Be Unbearable

Here is the main boulevard, tree-lined and still, and in the elegant residential buildings lining the boulevard the thoughtless are asleep, the news having come yesterday to no riots, no sound of objection at all. But in the fourteenth building, up on the fourth floor, third window along, I have not forgotten it. The cup of coffee on my desk is six days stale, so then, what. A great deal of the universe has grown cold. In the kitchen there is a little blood on the tiled floor and my dog is missing, having snuck out by the door left ajar. Someone knocks. Delivery! Pizza and roses! He says, with a tight flourish, producing both from behind his back. I take them and walk back inside. He has an unusual accent and dank, long hair that looks like a wig. He sways but is not drunk. Ma Donna, he says, still standing there. We gape a while at one another. I have plum-scented votives burning on a wooden chopping board. At the sight of these he claps his hands. I invite him in because it’s very possible he is Death.

We sit on the sofa and he pulls all the topping off his pizza slice before eating it. I decide from this irrefutable proof that he must be Death. He rolls up the dough as small as it will go and laughs and pushes it into his mouth. His face is lumpy. Outside I begin to hear sounds of distress from down in the street. Death stands and presses his greasy hands against the window. I look around. There’s the cream fleecy blanket. That will do. I pull it around my body like rolling a map, no – a burrito. You don’t have to make plans or a future with a burrito. I remove the needle and thread out from their hiding place. x stitches caterpillar up the sides of the casing. Soon I’m clasped safe, with only my head left to the elements, though that won’t be for long. Death has opened the window. The fires have come, probably, and all the lost dogs are dancing on their hind legs. Hai doggies, Death calls down to the street. But here in my room in my blanket there is quiet, smelling of melted cheese and oregano. Death looks back at me and waves his ineffectual royal wave as I close myself up entirely.

Helen McClory is a writer from Scotland. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow and an MA in Creative Writing from UNSW, Australia. Her first flash fiction collection, On the Edges of Vision, was published by Queen’s Ferry Press in August 2015. Her debut novel, Flesh of the Peach, will be published by Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2016. She can be found @HelenMcClory.