by Cathy Baker
2nd Place: Flash 405, February 2017: “Monster”
Because this was my last cigarette, and I’m two-cigarette mad.
Not me, my sister. She’s the one who lost the kid. But that’s just it, right there. She has death as a trump card, so she gets to win whatever fight she picks. Why would she want to bury the baby in our christening gown, anyway? He wasn’t baptized in it. You can’t even say he was baptized at all, considering he was dead by the time the priest showed up.
The fact is,there’s no reason for the baby to go into the ground in that gown. Cindy just pushed for it because she figures, heirloom linen, that’ll bring out the tears at the viewing. I should let people know, this is the role she’s been waiting for.
And she drops this on me as I’m driving her over here! She has it in a paper bag like it’s a done deal. And then in your little room upstairs she doesn’t even let me explain why she’s wrong. She just says, “For god’s sake Chrissy don’t light up in here.” And boots me out to this alley. With your hearse and that dumpster.
I wore that gown when I was baptized, my mother wore it, my grandmother wore it. Or maybe my grandfather, there’s some old photo. Anyway, it should be passed down to me, you hear what I’m saying? I should get it, because I’m the oldest, that’s tradition.
I don’t know, maybe Cindy wore it, too. How should I know? But let’s say she did—it proves my point! It served our generation; it could serve the next. But how am I supposed to say, your dead baby can’t have whatever outfit you want to put on him? No. I always come out looking bad in these fights.
And why are they scheduling the funeral for a Thursday? What’s wrong with a Saturday? This whole thing is really chewing up my leave.
What really stinks is, nobody asked my opinion. She went straight to Mom. I didn’t even get to give her that god-damn gown. She just took it.
The actual fact is, I’m three-cigarette mad.
Don’t get me wrong—it’s really sad. But I have a loss here, too. No one’s thinking about how I might be feeling. And right now I’m feeling like I’d like to hang onto that gown.
It’s Really Sad is a hybrid fiction and monologue fused into one stand-alone piece. I fell in love with the voice, and every read I think you start to realize the narcissism of the main character is something we all have but fight against on a daily basis.
Cathy Baker has taken several classes at the Writers Center (Bethesda, MD), including the inaugural, limited-admission class of The Novel Year program (2015-2016). She has completed a novel, WHAT NOW, KENNY BOY, and a short story collection, FLYBUZZ. She is currently seeking representation for both.