Fish Food in the End

The line moved like ants over a log, cars and pickups, U-Hauls and Winnebagos packed with children, pets, and dusty glass things wrapped in pillowcases. She could blow at any time, the Experts all agreed. And when she does, the Mayor added, it will constitute a disaster. So the people of this town left for safety, just as they were advised to do, their tail pipes coughing so long, so long to their mount named after a saint.

Albert did not go. Instead, he fried two freshly laid eggs with extra-fatty bacon, just like he liked. Would they notice him not with the caravan? They would not. This being a small, weathered, and ill-run town, the Authorities were among the first to evacuate.

While grease crackled and popped, Albert buried his age-spotted forearms into a trunk filled with camping and hunting gear. That old army tent will be perfect. The lantern, once glowing, will be perfect too. The camouflage garb is a bit too showy, and he's no show pony, no sirree.

Albert had asked the Lord many times for guidance. He'd prayed for life to take him in its fist and squeeze until his last breath leaked from his lungs like a Tupperware seal. Albert would never take his own life, no, no, that was just not the way. Life will give you what you can hold, he believed, and when you start to buckle under the weight then you must ask life to take it all back, take you back, oh yes Lord, please. You must trust, they all say, those who know Lordly things, and Albert had seen that on a bumper sticker. So permanent!

It wasn't one thing, really. His failures resembled a bunch of grapes, plump, juicy, packed so close together. Lillian did not want his dead mother's ring. She'd grown tired of Albert's lack of affection, his inability to do the simplest things, like handholding, so human Albert, really, and besides, she deserved better. Over at the mill they needed agile young men with drive and spicy secretions to do the labor, and pretty girls with legs like sledding hills to handle the phones. And Albert's dog Shady now thirteen and deaf had started urinating in Albert's bed slippers.

Albert pitched the green canvas tent in front of the television, securing it to a couch leg and two chairs. He sat inside with the flap open eating bacon and eggs and listening to the steady flow of cars driving past. Don't take any chances, the Newsman urged. Get out while you can.

Once her boiling cloud cremates Albert's rickety frame, his ashes will blow up and over mountaintops, into lakes, and between wild flowers. They will be absorbed into the soil and ingested by fish. Birds will carry them on their wings. Then Albert will be one with nature, and not against it. Oh, to finally be absolved, resolved, saved, finis!

About the author:

L. Suzanne Stockman tutors young scribes and writes big and small from a desk in Seattle. She discovered Barthelme while attending New York University. (He was sitting in a park feeding the pigeons.) Her headphones are plugged in right now. Ping her at