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Birthday Noir

by Donia Carey

The last time he’d been in this town it was snowing. He remembered that he’d skidded coming down their hill; damn near went into a tree. After that he’d kept going, driven straight through to Arizona. Made it in four days, only stopping at convenience stores and gas stations, sleeping in his car. Knowing they wouldn’t have found her yet, not until the newspapers piled up on the porch and the mailbox was full. Still, the less he showed his face, the better.

But that was nearly fifteen years ago and a lot of snow had fallen since then. It had all worked out so well. New identity, new life, a place in a new community. All those years, and the past was wiped out.

Not in his head, though. Out front he was an actor whose onstage performance was perfect. But backstage, behind the curtain, was his real self, his real life. That had never stopped.

The film kept running and repeating. Always their bedroom, and Julie in her embroidered kimono, drinking, smoking. And talking, talking, talking, her voice high-pitched; it gave him a headache. His hands around her neck, the voice stopping. Quiet. Then the film rewinding.

Now he’s come back to stop the film forever.

He rolls into the cemetery gates.

Just in time for her birthday. She always made a big thing of it — champagne, flowers. He’s brought it all with him now — Veuve Clicquot, the best; two crystal glasses, red roses, candles, even a birthday cake. Even a gun.

* * *

Minutes later, when the priest finds him, he is bleeding, barely conscious. The wound is superficial, a graze really. The priest kneels beside him and makes the sign of the cross. A great miracle, my son, he says. The cake saved you, thanks be to God! Blood seeps into the squashed cake and mingles with the butter cream as the priest picks up the gun.

Copyright © 2006 by Donia Carey

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