SmokeLong Quarterly

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Speak of the Dead

Story by Ann Zimmerman (Read author interview) September 15, 2003

Whenever my mother calls, she talks about dead people.

This morning I am laying bacon strips on the microwave dish when the phone rings. I check the caller ID. My mother. I cradle the phone against my shoulder and continue fixing breakfast.

Within seconds she asks, “You remember Gladys Berger?”


“You know – she always wore that flowered hat. She sat in the back pew at church.”

I haven’t attended her church in 30 years. I certainly don’t know Gladys. “Sure,” I say, as I crack four eggs into the frying pan, then drop bread into the toaster.

I wonder if Stan’s still sleeping upstairs. He usually wakes early on the weekend, especially when he smells bacon.

“Well,” my mother continues, “she’s a widow. Her husband dropped dead yesterday. Got out of bed and keeled over, right there. Gladys found him. Cerebral hemorrhage, they said.”

“Uh huh,” I mutter, “That’s a shame.” I think, at her age, she’s gotten used to losing people. I slide the eggs onto plates, burn my fingers picking up the bacon, then begin buttering the toast.

She says, “He was only 56. Same as Stan.”

“Really?” I wonder again what’s keeping him.

Suddenly, I hear a loud thud above me. I cover the phone and yell, “Stan?” No answer.

My mother is saying, “Those hemorrhages can happen to anyone, you know, even young people.”

Another thump, louder. I drop the knife. It clatters to the floor. “Gotta go, Mom.” I toss the phone onto a chair. I huff up the stairs. My blood pulses in my temples. My hand trembles as I twist the doorknob. Will my husband be crumpled on the floor?

Still dressed in pajamas, he sits on the edge of the bed. He holds his black shoe in his hand.

I catch my breath, sigh.

“Stan, what’s going on?”

He grins boyishly, turns the shoe over. I see a dark, smashed object on the heel.

“Black Widow,” he says.

About the Author

Ann Zimmerman has published flash fiction on AntipodeanSF, Alienskinmag, NetAuthorE2K. Her nonfiction work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Colorado Woman, Colorado Outdoors, Rocky Mountain Sports, Tradeswomen, Women’s Circle. She lives in Colorado with her partner, and one black cat.

This story appeared in Issue One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue One

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Next Date to Join: January 1!

On September 1, SmokeLong launched a workshop environment/community christened SmokeLong Fitness. This asynchronous community workshop is happening right now on our dedicated workshop site. If you choose to join us, you will work in a small group of around 10-12 participants to give and receive feedback. Each Monday, you will receive a new writing task (one writing task each week) designed by the senior editor team of SmokeLong. The core workshop is asynchronous, so you can take part from anywhere at anytime. We are excited about creating a supportive, consistent and structured environment for flash writers to work on their craft in a community.