Amy Barnes

Amy Barnes has two rescue dogs, two teenagers and one husband. They all both hinder and inspire her writing, but not this piece of flash fiction. She is an associate editor at Fractured Lit and reads for a variety of publications including CRAFT, The MacGuffin and Narratively. Her words live at around 100 sites but she can’t figure out a submission file system that works, so the true number is lost to the ether.

DIVORCED by Amy Barnes

A car the size of a house rams our house that’s the size of a house. Thunder from a 1986 Thunderbird shakes me out of my canopy bed to the window to the street. It’s the moment I know my mother is a liar, a big one. She lays there lazy for too long or maybe not long enough, in her satin-sheeted bed and satin-matching lingerie with a man who isn’t her husband or my father. Her lipstick is smeared and our house is too, a brick mouth opened up on one side. When the red lights encircle our house with the car-shaped hole in it, Mama staggers out wearing this not-father-man as a blanket. It’s not enough to hide him or her. The neighborhood sees extra glimpses that should have been kept secret -- breast tops, upper thigh thunder, rumpled bedroom hair. My brother and sister and I all stand in the cul-de-sac all in our night clothes, clothed by midnight, staring at the full moon-shaped hole that has appeared in our house galaxy, stars guiding insurance adjusters and curious neighbors who watch papers float out, folded blowing into the sky. My mother and father’s signatures land in front of our house when the papers settle. We argue over who gets what name or what parent but it’s late and we have school and cold feet so everyone goes back to sleep, except me. I follow the policemen until they find my father a sidewalk away drunk on moon and moonshine next to the battering ram car that we used to take together to the beach and back. The muscle car isn’t parked next to oceanside muscle men anymore, just idling on the curb by a curbed man sobbing into his I went to Virginia Beach and all I got was this t-shirt t-shirt. There are hangers full of my father piled in the back seat next to fast food robe wrappers and receipt pillows and balled-up Kleenex and lawyer lists of divisions of property and parents. I stand by him in bare feet and bare anger, pat his bent shoulders and ask if he needs directions home.

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We reverently chop up Brother Francisco. 

Deo Optimo Maximo. 

After morning prayers, that’s we do on Tuesday. Laid on the dining room table, our former dining partners resemble dinner chickens we used to eat together, reduced to skeletal bones. We carefully cut away flesh and organs and eyeballs and hair. Stripped of their robes, we leave only skulls covered in skin, brains removed as if we are Egyptian mummy makers, not religious brothers.

I measure a place for my living hands on the arched crypt walls, bits of his skin clinging like gloves. Laid flat. Stretched out. A hand is twenty-seven bones. You can create with a hand. A leg has only two main bones.

On Monday, we make nails that our vows don’t allow us to buy; each piece of iron pounded into miniature crucifixion spikes. Nails ready to be pounded into palms and femurs and skulls. We pray over each nail in our teeth and under the heavy hammers, living spit bathing something for the dead. 

Wednesday is bone cleaning day. Bones are exhumed from their graves still reeking of death stench. We put them carefully in buckets ready for creating new forms, some left as full skeletons to recline in the crypts, robed as if they are alive. There are never enough bones. I begin to find joy in administering last rites to my brothers. 

I wonder what I will become. Where will my brothers nail me on Thursday, the day of the walls? A pelvis chandelier, light coming from where urine once flowed? Maybe vertebrae circle-nailed like flowers with finger stems?

We are only one step above putting skulls on sticks to frighten towns into not sinning or not disobeying the king. But it is more than that. We pray over these bones, counting them each like rosary beads. I walk the hallway and prayer for my brothers caught in bone purgatory. 

Deo Optimo Maximo. 

I see myself as more artist than necromanist. My skills as an architect pre-vows gives me the spatial skills to complete these silent tasks. I taste the iron nails and never quite wash the smell of death from my robes. I know they will choose my place carefully, laying out my bone design, my hands creating beauty after I am gone. It will become my penance.

What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be...

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