Pearls and Jade, Sarah Ehlen, 2023. Colored pencils on toned paper. Decay exists as an extant form of life.
Water seeps through the hole in the ceiling, over the dining room table. It’s raining again. I just sat down to eat dinner, the baby’s in his highchair, and you’ve gone up to the attic, tools in hand, again. I eat my dinner, alone. The baby wants fed; I feed him and wait for you to come back downstairs, but then we’re done, and I’m doing the dishes. By the time you finally do come down, dripping in sweat from the heat of the attic, your shirt off, I’ve gone to bed.
In the morning, we argue about the hole in the roof. I tell you to just stick a bucket on the table and watch the water fall. Besides, it won’t rain every day. You tell me that irreparable harm will come to the house. I hold up my hand and start to say, “if it’s that bad…” but you cut in to say we don’t need a repairman.
I sneak upstairs to the attic at night, enter the crawl space, get on my hands and knees with a flashlight, and try to find the hole. I discover there’s not one hole, but several threatening to let rain loose in our house. I’m so angry I pull out my hair and stuff it inside the holes, winding each strand tightly to make firm coils, but after a month, they let water through as well.
You lob off your fingers and toes to plug the holes. I find them when I try to dislodge my elbows and knees, which feel more and more like jelly each day, but everything we do falls through. We finally face each other, in defeat. We listen to the baby cry, hold him, and go upstairs to the attic, wrapping ourselves around each other in a knotted embrace that fits perfectly over the space where the water falls through. We let the moss grow around our bodies. In the spring, flowers sprout from our fingers, toes, joints—all the things we sacrificed.
Cecilia Kennedy (she/her) is a writer who taught English and Spanish in Ohio for 20 years before moving to Washington state with her family. Since 2017, she has published stories in international literary magazines and anthologies. Her work has appeared in Hearth & Coffin Literary Magazine, Maudlin House, Tiny Molecules, Rejection Letters, Meadowlark Review, Vast Chasm Literary Magazine, and in anthologies by Kandisha Press and Ghost Orchid Press, among others. Currently she is a copywriter and does freelance work as a proofreader for Flash Fiction Magazine and as a concept editor for Running Wild Press, LLC. You can follow her on Twitter (@ckennedyhola).