Prayer Cards

The snow fell straight in thick, white ribbons from a sky so low and gray he felt he should stoop. In front of him fanned the prayer cards-a final legacy from his mother. Arranged in tight phalanxes of friends and family, as in life, the favorites closer. Mother, Father, the Grands, all the progenitors, then out to close friends, friends, acquaintances then finally tangential hangers on. 

When there wasn’t a card, or she hadn’t been able to get to the funeral home, she made her own by taping the newspaper obituary onto an index card and cutting it in half making it the same size as the others. She’d draw a cross or a sunrise on the front of it with colored pencils that were, to him, prettier than all the Jesuses and Marys on the printed cards. He moved his glass to the side and studied the array like a nervous chess player, recalling, ranking, touching them all, then finally switching a friend of his father’s (an officious prick that the old man never really liked but worked with for ten years) to the back and promoting the druggist who was good to his grandma back in the days when pills were easier. 

He didn’t get a paper himself, so he made his own prayer cards with the same stack of index cards she had in her desk. The one he just finished he put in the fourth row. “Jack “Bones” Kerklo” it said, in his crimped hand. “Age 72. Good guy. Fell drunk down 4th Street steps. Died AT HOME three days later.” He underlined “AT HOME” with a purpose and grinned. Not having his mother’s artistic talent he relied on his cheeky wit. 

The kids had made noises about him coming out for Christmas but he didn’t see how that could work. That had always been their mother’s time with them. He’d be fine just where he was-feeling more like a presence than a person. In front of him was a blank card with his name printed at the top. 

Oranges and Cigarettes

The crusty brown husk bore scant resemblance

To the peel that had curled sweetly and fragrantly as she stripped it

From the squirting orange.


Friday night? Saturday?

It coiled dry and stiff beside the ashtray that held the

Remains of two cigarettes she’d smoked that same night.

One, only half burned and crushed, bore a lipstick smudge.

So it had to have been Saturday.

She never felt being alone as when life’s detritus piled around her

And became permanent monuments.

Toenail clippings on the bed side table or the undershirt,

Once sweaty from yard work,

Hanging stiffly on the bathroom door.

For what?

A week? Two?

She’d get to it. All of it.