Ceasefire, by Alison McBain
Red apples spill across the road. She wheezes, lying on her back next to the canvas tote. The fruit is too far away for her limp fingers to touch.
Three hours ago, we sat on a couch covered in primroses. From the screen, a tinny voice told us the news. Papers signed, hands shaken, an accordance in accord.
"This time, there is hope," she said. Click clack click went the rosary beads passing through her gnarled fingers. "Maybe this time."
I shook my head. "Peace in one hand and a weapon in the other."
"Maybe this time," she repeated stubbornly.
The staccato language of guns speaks around me as I kneel in the dirt road by her head. The sound fades into raindrops on dry asphalt. The dry tick of a metronome. Not quite as fast as a heartbeat.
There are splashes of red on the dirt around her thin, white hair. The wound gapes in her throat, a second mouth below the first. It speaks loudly.
I take her hand. "Grandmother," I say. "How can I help you, grandmother?"
She blinks milky eyes. There is dirt on her face, and I wipe it away with the edge of my sleeve. Her lips move, but it is a whisper of lost sound. I lean closer to listen.
“Forgive,” she says. Another bead falling through her fingers.
I listen to the rasp of her breath go in and out, and I hold her hand as the sun moves across the sky. The sound of rain falls over the shadowed lines of her face.
The air is scented with the fragrance of murdered apples.
Alison McBain is an award-winning author with nearly 100 short works published, including prose/poetry in Litro, FLAPPERHOUSE, and The Airgonaut. Her debut fantasy novel The Rose Queen was named one of the best books of 2018 by the reviewer website Bookshine and Readbows, and she was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize for poetry. In her spare time, she is the Book Reviews Editor for Bewildering Stories, and lead editor of the small press publisher Fairfield Scribes.
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