SmokeLong Quarterly

Share This f l Translate this page


Story by Peter Kispert (Read author interview) March 26, 2013

art by Andrew Henderson

I tell the policeman I didn’t touch the ribcage, which isn’t entirely true. I was walking the Florida sandbar, observing a pink stripe of sunset on the horizon, thinking of what would happen once my mother passed—and at seventy-six with stage three lung cancer she would soon—when I tripped over the bones. Disturbed, they leaned and relaxed with the incoming tide, the gait of a rocking chair.

“Where is it?” the man asks me. He’s young, red weals pocking his face beneath the recent stubble of a shave. His badge reads: Clearwater PD. Grey gulls helix overhead, having spotted an easy kill in the parking lot.

I point toward its location, near a lone buoy. Two teen girls volley a beach ball feet away from where I suspect the bones rest. He whistles sharply, calls them in. They chase each other out of the water, laughing, an imagined shark at their heels.

“You sure it was a person’s?” I can tell he doesn’t think I’m sure.

“I think so,” I say.

In the hospital, I saw X-rays of my mother’s chest, the ghostly silhouette of her thinning ribs, a phantom mist on the right side. This, the doctor told us, is your cancer.

“So you’re not sure,” he says. His radio clicks with static. “Divers are on their way.”

He retires to his idling car, and I walk toward the shoreline. That he’s let me wander assuages my fear I might be suspect in some unknown murder, one of those killers hopelessly entwined with their victims. I remain on the beach partly out of a sense of obligation for having located the bones, but also because I want to see them found, lifted, bagged, gone.

Sitting on the sand, facing the sky as it darkens like a swelling bruise, it occurs to me for the first time that beneath the waves there may be other parts: elbows, femurs, submerged spines and patella. They have to be out there, somewhere. On other beaches, in other countries. Every day things like this must turn up. I begin thinking about where my mother’s body will one day rest, where she will be present and unseen. I make an impression with my palm in the sand. Its shape is quickly lost to the wind.

About the Author

Peter Kispert‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly, Baltimore Review, PANK, Slice Magazine, Sou’wester, South Dakota Review, The Emerson Review, Hawai’i Review, and elsewhere. A book review is forthcoming in Colorado Review. He works with The Adirondack Review, Mud Luscious Press, and Narrative Magazine.

About the Artist

Andrew Henderson is a student at the University of Central Florida where he is majoring in art history. His photography appeared in Cypress Dome Magazine and his poetry was included in a collection by MOPE Designs. When he is not taking pictures or writing, Andrew is either making or studying art in his native town of Orlando, Florida.


Support SmokeLong Quarterly

Your donation helps writers and artists get paid for their work. If you’re enjoying what you read here, please consider donating to SmokeLong Quarterly today.

High Intensity Interval Training for Flash Writers with Ingrid Jendrzejewski

Book Now!

Bring a pen, lots of paper, and your water bottle: this is a high-intensity guided-writing work-out designed to kickstart creativity, and push you into new territory, and exercise flash muscles you didn’t even know you had.

Maybe you’re stuck in a story and looking for a way to proceed.  Maybe you’re looking to generate new ideas.  Maybe your inner editor is holding you back.  Maybe you’re in a rut or have writers’ block or are just wanting to shake things up a bit.  This session is designed to tackle all these issues and help you level up your flash fitness.  Writers of all backgrounds and experience levels warmly welcome; come along, roll up your sleeves, and trust the process.