by Marcelle Heath
If you’re lucky, you’re made beautiful by the future. No one will find out that for a period you loved your neighbor’s dog more than your own. Or that you once struck your sister so hard she passed out. No one will know about the affair you had right after you were married. Or that the final words to your demented father were Please die. No one will discover that, every day for fifteen months, your search terms were “James Monti,” “James Monti married,” “James Monti wife.” In the future, your name will pop up in conversations about Jackie Kennedy, the subject of a fictional memoir you wrote and sent to all your friends. They will remember the time you asked one of their children if he remembered you in his dreams, the time you flew to Oslo by mistake. Three hours in, you thought, this could be your one chance. You could disappear like your aunt did after Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980. She was covering the story for The Columbian, and everyone assumed she perished in the disaster. Her girlfriend found her living as a pig farmer in Little Rock some twenty years later. When you disembark in Oslo, you eat fish soup and drink three beers. You have twenty thousand dollars, the bulk of which you inherited from your father, and an eleven-year-old daughter. You take a car to the Viking Ship Museum. At the Oseberg ship, you read about the burial chamber for two women, which included two tents, four sleighs, fifteen horses, six dogs, and two cows. You check in at a hotel on Tjuvholmen, or “Thief Island,” so named for its seedy past. The next day, you book a flight back. You go not because you miss home but because you suspect that you will not. The story will change, the missed hours attributed to illness and jet lag. You will remember the gripping beast engravings, their cartoon eyes and open mouths. You won’t travel abroad again, but you will die on a plane, soon after your divorce, on your way to see James Monti. Your remains will be packed up by your daughter, who will put off doing anything with them, and moved from Los Angeles to Kansas City to Detroit and back. Here, a wildfire in the San Fernando Valley will claim you, your daughter, and thirty horses, a funeral pyre worthy of Valhalla.
For my parents, Renate Arnett and Gilbert Lloyd Heath Jr.
Marcelle Heath’s recent stories have appeared in Joyland, Nat. Brut, NOÖ, and Split Lip Magazine. She is Series Editor of Wigleaf Top 50, and Managing Editor of VIDA Review. marcelleheath.com / @marcellepdx