(A never-before-published short story by Jody Scott)
Naked we come into this world and handsomely outfitted in a new pinstripe from Big & Tall, complete with a foulard tie, we go out of it.
At any rate that’s what happened to Nettie Polotnik’s husband Phil who had been dead nine years to the very day when our story begins. Philip Hart Polotnik had never been neat while he was alive (Phil died at age fifty-six, his skull broken in a car crash); he drank like a fish, played poker all night long and smelled like the nasty brown cigars he smoked (and those cigars were what killed him, according to Nettie! If it hadn’t been that accident it would have been emphysema like the late Johnny Carson). Nettie herself was the neat one in the family. Their four children, Michael, Tim, Meredith and Polly, now grown-and-gone were about average on the neatness scale, with son Timmy (once a juvenile delinquent, today a world famous oncologist; can you believe such a turn of events?) being the sloppiest of the lot, Nettie was thinking as she hummed somewhat happily while cleaning out the fridge.
Funny how much junk gets collected when a person lives alone. Now why was there an open, moldy (covered with a crawling, green, slimy fuzz; ick! The smell of it—phew! Into the garbage it went)—can of tuna when the only person in this family who even liked tuna was daughter Meredith who lived in New Rochelle and had four children of her own? You’d think—but never mind what you’d think; Nettie didn’t want to dip into that old barrel of pain, regret and sorrow, why should she? She was alive, vibrant and happy, she liked living alone in peace and quiet and most of all you can’t change the past so why bother yourself with it?
“I don’t know about that,” Phil said. “Reality isn’t exactly what we always thought it was, honey.”
Her husband was sitting across the table in his new pinstripe suit, smoking a cigar and drinking coffee which was all wrong because he’d been dead for nearly a decade. . And yet—!
“I’m not going to argue with you so butt the hell out,” Nettie snapped. Feeling tired, she didn’t have time to argue the same foolish old arguments, she had a dental appointment in an hour and had to buy gas on the way (running out of gas was always so embarrassing) and then grocery-shop. But she felt strange, very strange indeed. And there certainly wasn’t any use in snapping at poor dead Phil about it because the poor guy wasn’t even alive for mercy sake!…
Something was happening to Nettie and she had no idea what, except that she was terribly dizzy and before you could say “Poof!” she was sprawled on the floor in her ratty old blue bathrobe that had come untied and was all rucked up under her. There wasn’t much pain, except for a clutching in the chest (it reminded her of Valentine’s Day in school when the kids all exchanged hearts, big shiny paper hearts that said “Be mine!” with a pretty lace banner across the front of them) but this was different, because--
Suddenly Nettie found herself up at the ceiling looking down at her body. She hadn’t realized how filthy it was up here—the entire ceiling could use a good scrubbing but most especially the overhead fixture; there were dead flies in the globe, quite disgusting but that wasn’t the worst of it.
The worst of it was: leaving that funny-looking hunk of clay all sprawled out, its butt showing, right in the middle of her scrubbed kitchen floor for someone else to find which was awful but she couldn’t do anything about it,
“What were you saying dear?” she asked Phil but Phil was long gone, so Nettie hurried so she wouldn’t be late—very sorry about the mess on the floor but wasn’t that the way life always ended?—so no use worrying about it. Sad, but true; and with a sigh, Nettie herself was out of there.