ALLEN’S ASHES • by Bonnie Bostrom

She kept Allen’s ashes in a hexagonally shaped enamel box decorated with a mandala of inlaid mother-of-pearl. The workmanship was splendidly intricate and when light played upon its face the box was lustrous, each diamond piece of the pattern shining iridescently. It was small, the amount of ashes hardly more than a few tablespoons; the rest of Allen had been dispersed into the Mediterranean Sea on a day saturated with sun.

That is what he had wanted.

When missing him became unbearable she would take the box down from its place on the mantle above the fireplace and hold it closely in her hands. Then, ever so carefully, she would lift the lid and let her moistened finger ferret out just a tiny bit of ash and slip it quickly into her mouth. She always felt better knowing Allen was as close to her as he had ever been. She didn’t worry. She felt that if she took just a little bit at a time, no harm would come. It wasn’t as though she were an oyster and Allen an irritant that would form a nacreous pearl.

The ritual became elaborate. She would take the box from the mantle, place it on a white linen cloth on a small rectangular table where she lighted a candle and arranged flowers in a silver vase. She talked to him, shared sweet secrets and told him of her dreams. She dreamed of the sea, of water so clear it looked like glass. There were small fish and colorful coral all around her and she would dream herself on the bottom of the sea, resting, gently moving with the tides.

She washed the ashes down with a white wine drunk from a cut-glass goblet. Sometimes she would drink an entire bottle of Riesling before it was time to blow out the candle. The box would go back to the mantle and she would be off to a bath and bed, to dream once more of a shining sea, brilliant in sun. When she died the coroner called for an autopsy. The pathologist concluded that she had accidentally drowned in the bathtub and upon further examination was astounded that anyone would have swallowed so many pearls.

Bonnie Bostrom has published several books, one of which, Born Crazy, was awarded an Eric Hoffer Finalist Award for memoir. Her flash fiction has been featured in Rust 9 and she is very excited by this genre. She lives in New Mexico with her husband, Jim.

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