Death and Life in St. Maurice, Louisiana
Terry Thomas

Somewhere between tater tots and pecan pie
Syl lost the ability to breathe. Her chest heaved,
trying to channel air in the diner's hot, close kitchen.
She told Les she couldn't take no more and banged
out the screen door, brushing past June bugs
trying to bang their way in. She made straight
for the mimosa tree, finding it by habit and
starlight in the moonless dark. Damn, I'll be
dinner in a few seconds... when the skeeters find me.

She didn't care, though; it was her birthday and
an anniversary. No one knew. She was a quiet,
private person, battery charged daily to plod
on, by memories. Just three days before her
twenty second year, Ron asked her if she wanted
to drive into Natchitoches: dinner, movie, maybe...
sit on a park bench and watch the world
wander by... maybe something else? The maybe
was a J.P., housekeeper as witness, ring's sparkle
blurring in tears, rain on stained glass.
Next day he was on a troop transport,
two days later face down in Kuwait, blood
bleeding into the thirsty sand. No one knew
about her loss for some time. She was waiting
for the miracle of the blood ceremony,
but when it came she knew all she'd have
was a war ribbon and old photos. She
visited his grave with a fierce but wistful
determination, the same set of jaw and soul
she always maintained to keep herself away
from the quicksand in the swamps surrounding
her. When Jack visited her, weary wanderer
migrating from Butte, Montana, with news
and remembrances of Ron, she let him stay
the night and opened her heart's secrets
to this stranger, but not an unknown man
to her man. He left next morning, same wistful
smile carefully placed when he first walked into
the diner. A few days later a ranger found his
body in the dark, death-dealing water, life
bleached from his sodden body, wistful smile
lost to his own heart's secrets. Syl had his
body and stone placed next to Ron's, and
visited both over the next month... 'til
her miracle of blood ceremony didn't occur.
It was several days before she could visit
her men again and tell them about the gift,
the certain feel of another male inside of her
and introduced them to Ronald Jackson O'Connor.