The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape Of Anne’s Grief Chapter One Anne
The music flowed through the headphones. Filling Anne Marsten with it’s rhythm. The singer was looking for the magic. Anne was too. She let the music guide her as she worked, pulling a large box out with a pallet jack. Around her were metal racks. Each one stacked high with boxes of appliances, furniture and just about what ever crap you might want to buy. “Everything your happy home needs.” That was the Save-Mart slogan. Anne pulled the pallet down the aisle. Her shoulders slumped. It was ten in the morning and already she felt exhausted.
You know what today is.
Anne wanted the day to be over. Instead work just prolonged the torture… After she delivered the box, Anne was pointed in the direction of some trash that had to be taken out. Music still playing on her headphones. Anne read their lips and nodded. She didn’t need to hear their words. The two large black bags sat there in the back room. Like the remains of a murder. She hefted the bags up. They were heavier then she thought they’d be. Anne smiled a sly smile. Maybe they are bodies after all. “Human grave found under Save-Mart.” There’s a slogan for you.
With a bag in each hand, Anne kicked open the backdoor leading to the trash dumpsters behind Save-Mart. The cool morning air felt good after the stifling heat inside. It was October and already someone had the heat cranked up like it was January. Anne’s long dirty blonde hair felt greasy from the heat. She had it pulled back into a ponytail as per store policy. Her uniform felt constricting. The collar tight around her neck.
Anne set the bags in front of the first of three large dumpsters. She leaned against the wall. Allowing herself a quick break. The cool air refreshing her. Save-Mart was set up on a small hill. Practically overlooking town. The back of the store looked down on Route 12. It was busy with traffic most every day. Anne watched all the cars going to and fro.
What were they leaving? Where were they going? It had to be better than here. Rotting away. Rotting away like this trash. Anne could run. Just leave. It was so tempting. No. She too many things that relied on her. Things that couldn’t just be left behind.
The tape in her Walkman stops. Anne sighs, turning the tape over. she need the music today.
Today of all days.
As the second side starts, she opens the dumpster. An awful, stale smell assaulting her nostrils. Lifting he first bag up, and chucking it onto a broken pallet and some empty cartons of beer. The second bag, quickly joining it. She takes one last look at the busy traffic before going inside. Back to work.
Anne sat in the break room at lunch. Far away from the others taking lunch at the same time. Four of them, sitting together. Laughing and joking. She flipped through a dogeared copy of People Magazine. Pretending to read it. Trying not to think about them. Why did they have to be so loud? From time to time she caught their glances. Out of the corner of her eye. One of them would look at her and turn back to the others. Having a good chuckle. Were they talking about her? Did it matter? Just the way they acted made her feel unconformable.
Anne didn’t have any friends here. Nobody that hung around her on break. All the others were either older or younger then she was. At 23 Anne felt like she was at a crossroads. Too old to relate to the teenagers working here. Too young to relate to the others older then her. It was better that way though. People wore Anne out.
After lunch, the afternoon was a blur. When it came time to punch out Anne couldn’t wait to leave. She had something to do. Something nagging her all day.
Anne walked across the Save-Mart parking lot. There was a strong breeze blowing through. Up on the hill, out in the open. The wind got strong up here. She watched as the dead leaves danced about. The parking lot this time of the day was a lonely wasteland. Most of town was at home having their suppers. There were a few people here. Still shopping.
Anne pulled her flannel jacket tight. As dusk encroached it was getting chilly. It was good to be out of her store uniform. Back in her regular clothes. Finally, free of the ponytail. She walked towards an old pickup truck. A blue ‘72 Chevrolet. It had been her dad’s. His pride and joy. It was now hers.
The parking lot lights hummed to life. Cast an unearthly glow. As Anne neared her truck something on the windshield caught her eye. Leaning in close, there was a small spider web like crack in the glass on the passenger side windshield.
“Fuck.” Anne says, under her breath. If this day couldn’t get any worse.
She runs her finger over the crack. Suddenly pulling away when it cuts her finger.
“Great.” A drop of blood forms on the cut. As Anne sucks on the blood from the wound finger, she looks around the truck. There was nothing there that might have hit it. A rock, bottle or anything else. Did somebody do this? Maybe on purpose.
An all too familiar rumble cuts through the dusk. Drawing Anne out of her thoughts. She turns, her against the truck’s hood. Parked next to her was Sam Lang. Anne’s best friend since middle school. Sam slides off the motorcycle. Running a leather gloved hand through her short jet-black hair. Strips of dark blue and purple standing out.
Sam was dressed in her usual black leather jacket, jeans and shirt. She smiles seeing her friend. “Thought I saw the old blue beast parked here.” Her eyes flickering to Anne’s bleeding finger. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Cut my finger on the windshield. Something cracked it.”
“Let me see.” Sam, a few inches shorter then Anne, stands on tiptoes looking at the crack. “That’s not too bad at least.”
“Maybe.” The bleeding finally subsiding, Anne stops sucking on her finger. “Just another bit of my crap day.”
“Aren’t they all? Want to hang out? Take your mind off shit?”
Anne sighed. “Can’t today. Dad’s birthday.”
“Oh, damn. Forgot.” Sam bit her lip, looking down at the pavement.
Anne felt bad, her friend looked somewhat embarrassed. And let down. “Don’t sweat it.”
A hopeful smile played across Sam’s face. “Well, if not tonight… What are you doing for Halloween?”
Anne thought for a moment. That was still a week and a half away. She hadn’t planned anything expect hiding under her covers and sleeping. And that’s about all she wanted to do. But the look on her friend’s face made her rethink her plans.
“Got nothing planned. Why?”
“Well. I got word there’s going to be a little shindig at the old Well’s Farm this Halloween. I got an invite from my roommate. You can be my plus one.”
A Halloween party. Anne pictured a bunch of rowdy drunk collage kids. That sounded as fun as having her teeth pulled.
“I don’t know Sam.”
“C’mon.” Sam had that determined tone in her voice. Whenever she got that, it was hard to get her to give something up. “When’s the last time you had fun?”
Fun wasn’t hanging around a bunch of drunk frat boys dressed like Dracula.
“What’s fun?” Anne said, sarcasm creeping into her voice.
“See? That’s what I’m talking about.” Sam gently punches Anne in the shoulder. “C’mon… I’ll keep punching you.”
“Stop it.” Anne hated being touched. Sam was just about the only one outside her mom she’d let do it.
Sam kept it up. “Say the words and I’ll stop.”
Defeated by her friend’s relentless assault, Anne bows her head. “Okay you got me.”
Sam stops in mid punch. Holding her fist at the ready. “You’ll go?”
“Sweet! It’s a date then. I’ll throw the details at ya later. Copacetic?”
Anne nods. She’d go. But only for Sam. Sam who always had her back. Sam who never seemed to judge her.
“Seriously though. Are you okay Anne?”
“I’ll be fine. Just a rough day.” Anne holds up her cut finger. “Everything just piled on.”
“Don’t it always. Well I got to hit Save-Mart, need some shit for the apartment. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Later.” Anne watches as Sam heads towards the store. It was getting late and she still had stuff to do herself. Anne got in the pickup. There was the damn crack. It was as if life was taunting her today. Moving her towards a great edge. Trying to pushing her over it.
She could feel the first stinging sensation of a headache forming in her left temple. Like a rat gnawing away on her brain. Anne slammed the car door shut. She could feel it coming. The rage. The tears.
Flipping on the radio, Black Sabbath blasted out of the speakers. Anne took a deep breath. She sat there a moment. Letting the music wash away the anger and pain. Feeling a little better Anne turned the key and pulled out. The worst was yet to come.
By the time Anne got to the cemetery outside of town it was six. Night had well and truly fallen. Wanderly Hill cemetery was a sprawling monster that stretched out for about sixty acres. She drove under the old stone archway, down the main path. Her goal was a little way in and walking would eat up too much time. Anne clicked on her high beams. All she needed was to run into a gravestone. That would be the perfect end to the day. Anne glanced at the flowers lying on the seat next to her. She should have stopped and got the flowers before work. But Anne didn’t want to leave them in the truck all day.
Her eyes scanned the cemetery as she drove. Looking for the old dead elm tree. When she saw it, Anne stopped the truck, turning it off. Anne grabbed the flowers and got out. She walked towards a headstone a few feet away from the dead elm. Kneeling down in front of the headstone, Anne brushes some dead leaves off it. Setting her bundle of flowers down at its base.
“Happy birthday daddy.”
Anne kisses her hand and touches it to the headstone.
“I’m sorry it’s only me again this year. Mom’s different now since you died. It’s hard to get her out of the house much. I’m really trying dad. But it’s so much.”
Anne sat there for a few minutes in silence. She really didn’t want to leave too soon, but mom would be waiting for her. She’d have supper ready. Anne forces herself to stand. A strong cold wind blows through the cemetery. Blowing leaves around her. The bundle of flowers start to blow away. Landing on a small headstone next to her dad’s. Anne quickly snatches them up. As the freakish wind dies down.
Anne looks down at the headstone. The name engraved on it. Emily.
A chill runs up Anne’s spine. She backs away from the grave. Anne dropping the flowers in front of her fathers’ headstone once more. Hurrying to the pickup, without looking back.
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