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OUTSIDE the restaurant were mechanical trains, those ones for kids, sitting there, dead, waiting for someone to shove twenty-five cents down their throats. Meredith and her father sat inside, on red, cushioned chairs, eating burgers.

He took a bite of his—lettuce, onions, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, a pickle (just one, dill) and a slice of cheese—and she took a sip of her drink—root beer, always root beer.

And then he started choking.

It didn’t matter how hard she hit his back with her tiny fists. He always stopped breathing. And only the jukebox answered her cries for help.

• • •

They entered the darkened theatre and she guided him to their favourite seat—ten in, seven rows back. He leaned forward slightly as he walked between the chairs. She could see the top of his head these days. They hadn’t played ‘spot the bald spot’ in years and she could see why.

They sat down and the movie started, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, remastered.

“He chose… poorly.” Father, daughter and screen said in unison, when the line came around.

She turned to smile at him and he smiled back. She loved his smile.

And then he clutched his heart.

The shock on his face was almost as unrealistic as the movie. Almost comical.

“I’m dying.” He said.

And then he did.

• • •

They were on a hill, overlooking Hargrove Cemetery. It was their favourite place to picnic, guaranteed to be quiet and emptier than the campgrounds. She sat on his shoulders. She could see everything from up there.

She tried to count the gravestones, but there were too many so she switched to counting only the ones with flowers or wreaths.

“Merry-bear.” He said.

“Mhm.” She responded, trying not to lose count.

“See that cloud up there? The big puffy one?”

“It looks like an elephant.”

“It’s called a cumulonimbus cloud. It’s so big because it’s full of water. That’s the type that can turn into a rainstorm or a thunderstorm.”

“Oh.” She said.

“Besides, it looks more like—”

She didn’t hear the bang. She was still waiting for the rest of his sentence. She didn’t realize anything was wrong until she felt the blood on her arms, from the hole in his forehead. His knees bent and his body swayed forward, then back. She hung on as best she could. She’d never sat on one of the mechanical trains before but she imagined this is what it would be like.

Her dad collapsed on his side. His mouth fell open and quarters spilled out.

• • •

“I’m dying, Meredith.”

There he lay, her hero growing up. The man who used to throw her in the air and catch her, so tiny and fragile in that bed. So weak. His skin was as pale as the sheets, translucent as the dusty curtains and trembling as he spoke. He smelt strange, not as she remembered, more rotten, like something fermenting. The scent clung to the dust, the sheets, the curtains, and hovered in the air. It filled her head and made her feel faint. She sat down beside him and shut her eyes.

With a sudden and surprising strength, he sat up, grabbed her shirt and pulled her close to his lips. His voice was soft, his dying breath sickeningly sweet, as he whispered his last words in her ear.

“Stop killing me.”

• • •

“I’m trying to keep you alive.” She said, but her words came too late.

She was on the balcony of her castle, watching her father as he waved from the streets below. She tried calling out to him but he couldn’t hear, only blew her kisses in response. It was her wedding day.

But someone hadn’t tied up the elephants. They ran rogue in the streets and she watched, screaming but unheard, as he was trampled under their feet.

• • •

She was on his couch, in his apartment in New York. Her nails were painted with polka dots and her hair hung in her eyes. It must have been only a couple of months since he’d left her mother.

He was on TV, inside the screen, tied to a train track.

“You’ve got to be kidding.” She crawled off the couch and moved towards his tiny, black and white image. She pressed her hands to the curved glass, letting the static crackle between her fingers.

“Please let me in.” She whispered to the monitor, resting her forehead against it.

The glass vanished and she fell forward, stumbling on her hands and knees into mud and grass. She stood up quickly, tearing a hole in her pajama pants.

“A bit of a role reversal isn’t it?” Her father yelled from the train tracks when he saw her. She’d always admired his ability to make jokes regardless of the situation.

She moved towards him and started untying the ropes. There was no sign of a train. Yet. Her hands shook as she tugged at the knots.

When he was free, she pulled him close and held him in her arms. He smelt good, like she remembered, a little like sweat, a little like soap but mostly like grass. She let go of him and they stood up. Nothing happened.

He was still alive and it was disconcerting.

She looked at him, standing by the train tracks in his cowboy hat and chaps, and thought of how perfect he looked there. It suited him.

“Just like The Great Train Robbery.” She said, smiling. It was one of their favourites. They loved the end, when the cowboy shoots the audience.

He didn’t respond. The halt in conversation seemed odd to her, but it should have been the train whistle that caught her attention, not his silence. Either way, her realization came too late.

All it took him was one step backwards, back onto the tracks, the whistle screeching its death cry as the train barreled into him. And then he was gone. Steam bloomed out from the scene, erasing it in one enormous, flowery cloud. Remarkably cumulonimbus.

• • •

She put her key in the door, pulling the knob towards her as she did. The lock was finicky and no one had bothered to fix it.

Inside, the walls seemed too still. Everything was just where it was supposed to be—exactly where it never was. Except in the dining room, where the table had been pushed beside a window and a chair lay on its side. Her father’s wedding photo hung over the piano and he hung from the chandelier.

• • •

“What are you doing?” She asked him, her voice sounded harsh and strange. Her hands were trembling on the steering wheel. She couldn’t breathe properly. He was sitting in the seat next to her, alive and smiling. She hated his smile. She pulled over and parked.

“Get out.” She said.


“Get out!” Her fist hit the car horn and it stuck. “Shitty van.” Her dad bought it second-hand, always had to save a dollar.

He lifted his arms up in surrender and stepped out of the wailing vehicle.

She got out as well, slamming the door, and beating her fist against it in frustration. As if there wasn’t enough noise already.

“It’d be a death sentence to drive right now.” She said with a resigned sigh. “I’ll only crash.”

“Everything is a death sentence.” He was so smug. She would’ve killed him if she weren’t fighting so hard to keep him alive.

The horn continued to scream in the background. Begging for attention. Refusing to let her forget the car that he had driven away in.

“Shut up.” She said.

Not that it mattered. Of course it didn’t matter. The bombs were already on their way.

And it made no difference whether or not they were inside the car.


Eileen Mary Holowka is a creative writing student in her second year at the University of Winnipeg. She's happy to have made her writing debut at Little Fiction. (We’re pretty happy about it, too! —LF.)

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LF #038 © Eileen Mary Holowka. Published by Little Fiction | Big Truths, April 2013.


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again and

by eileen mary holowka