James LePore: Project 52/2015: I’m Here

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14814_1871639lImage: Beach, © James LePore



The clock ticks,

The refrigerator hums,

The night descends,

My novel is waiting, and my bed.

I light one last cigarette,

I caress the filter tip with my lips,

I fill my lungs with smoke,

Hot, and charged with the promise of slow death.

My wife and I went to the beach as much as we could. We talked—I should say dreamed—about having a house there, but that didn’t happen. She died instead. I threw her ashes into the surf, and then walked that part of the beach every day, summer, winter, rain, snow, it didn’t matter. I usually went at twilight, because I think, just as that’s when day meets night, that’s when the living meet the dead. Not that I think she’s dead. She’s not. She’s just living someplace else, waiting for me. Her waiting I think is easy, there being no concept of time where she is. But for me it’s hard. It’s a weight I carry. Sometimes a gull will wheel overhead and caw and I’ll think it’s her. Sometimes spray will hit me and I’ll think it’s her. This is our house, I’d say, at those moments, our dream has come true. When they put her in hospice, they started giving her morphine. I knew it was for the best because of the pain, but watching her was hard. Sometimes she’d twitch and I’d nod my head and squeeze her hand. I’m here. Although I’d never smoked, I wanted a cigarette. But refraining wasn’t hard. I figured I’d have plenty of time to smoke when she was gone.

I started writing after she died, at night, when the house was quiet. I couldn’t watch television. It was so loud and profane, it unnerved me. I never thought I could have written a poem, or would ever want to, but they just came out of me onto the paper. I thought I’d be embarrassed to say, I’ve written a poem, but I’m not. I like them and I’m proud of them.

One day I saw a large stone on the beach. I went to pick it up, thinking I’d throw it into the sea, but when I got to it, it wasn’t a stone, it was a kitten, half dead. I picked it up and took it home. It came back to life with not much help from me. A little milk, a litter box. Now it sits with me at the kitchen table when I write poems at night, the house very quiet. It gets on my lap and purrs, or lays on the chair next to me and looks up at me once in a while, its eyes big and yellow. I’m here, it’s saying.


About Project 52/2015: I like to take pictures and I like to write fiction. This Blog will combine the two in what I am calling Project 52/2015, one of my images mated with a piece of very short fiction each week in 2015. Enjoy.

James LePore is the national bestselling author of numerous novels, most recently, God’s Formula, which he wrote with Carlos Davis. Visit his website.

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On October 2, 2015
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