Published Monthly

Two Weeks After the Shadow
by Rachel Swirsky

Two weeks after the shadow shows up in Stephen’s x-ray, it comes to you that you should do something about the bucket in the garden. You start by wedging it underneath the faucet in the back yard, so tightly that you can’t push on it without hearing the groan of grinding metal. As a result, the hose is useless and your fuchsias are dying, but now there’s no chance Stephen will go out to read in the sun and accidentally kick the bucket.

After that, you tie back all the curtains with old shoe laces, and then when you run out of those, with pieces of fishing line. All so he won’t close the curtains on himself, so it won’t be curtains for him. When you find yourself kneeling in the neighbor’s garden, yanking up the bright head of every daisy so Stephen can’t push them up, you begin to wonder if you’ve gone too far. You wonder if you’re doing this more for yourself than for Stephen. You wonder if it’s too late to leave the flower bed half-plucked and run home, to unbind the curtains and tell Stephen you don’t have to do these crazy things anymore because you know there’s no reason - he’s going to be all right, he isn’t going to die, he can’t, you won’t let him.

The sun inches to the noon position overhead and a drop of sweat trickles from your forehead to the bridge of your nose and down the edge of your lip to your chin. You let it slide off and fall in the flowerbed, then lean back and wipe the remaining sweat away with the back of your hand.

You keep pulling up the daisies.

In games of two truths and a lie, Rachel Swirsky likes to present the following: 1) While sitting in the back row of the top balcony at the Metropolitan opera, Rachel once witnessed a depressed tenor pitch himself off the railing onto the spiky glass chandelier. 2) Rachel's parents met at a Halloween party where her mother was dressed as a harem girl and her father was dressed as a vampire; worse, her father spent the entire night flirting with another woman. 3) As a California native, Rachel's first introduction to hunting came when her West Virginian boyfriend's grandfather took out a squirrel carcass and a bucket to hold the blood and declared, "Time to take off the squirrel's pajamas." As to which of these is untrue, Rachel keeps her own counsel, but she will divulge that she's a graduate of Clarion West 2005 and will be entering the Iowa Writers Workshop as a fiction MFA student in the fall.


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