Ann Lightcap Bruno

When the microwave clock glows 2:00 and Ron's not home I check my sleeping girls and call Cheryl who's seen twenty-five years of this shit and soon we're in my Escalade passing pinot grigio and blasting Dixie Chicks over the rolling emptiness of Route 711, the sweetness of dead skunk blowing us to the Tin Lizzy lot where I don't see Ron's truck sidled next to that sports car, so Cheryl says, She's not far -- Baker Road, and I repeat Jesus Christ Jesus Christ, the night like a new bruise, and Cheryl shuts off the radio as I wheel around the corner into the crunch of gravel, Slow down, Cheryl says, but I am blind on rage and wine and desire, Easy honey -- up here, and we take the impact before we see him tossed like a discarded prom gown onto the hood of his truck parked across the road from her dim cheap house, and I get out with Cheryl behind me calling through her open window, Get in, and his eyes are already gone and his hands are helpless while moonlit blood shimmers across that truck he loved more than me, and I swear I didn't see him and Cheryl is sliding into the driver's seat, Now goddammit, and then we vanish to her garage where we scrub my car clean so I can head stone sober home before the house phone rings my girls awake.
My oldest sings Ave Maria upon the altar. Midway, her thin soprano catches on a jagged note. Cheryl rises from the congregation, strides in confident heels to where my daughter stands with no breath and saves her as she thinks she saved me, singing along to the crumpled music until the thing is done. Afterward, we are led by the sheriff's flashing lights. Brothers and cousins hoist the casket. The priest reads a psalm, and then I stand for throngs of them to clasp my hands and offer pity before driving to my house where Ron's mother will serve fat slices of cake. She is not here, of course, that woman. But Cheryl is, the end of the line. She reaches for me and I let her pull me in to her tight little body, feel her cherry nails through my dress. It's over, she whispers. I know, I say. And then I say it again for good measure, I know, but she doesn't understand because she is brushing a limp strand of hair behind my ear. So I step away from her and say it once more. And we are cold in the sun. And evening's shadow is coming upon the valley, and neither Cheryl nor the Lord is my shepherd. And I fear, Oh Lord, how I fear. Cheryl stands before me, now knowing, untouching, trying to find the words to say. But I am already gone, turning on my own new heels in a gesture Ron might have tried, rooting in my purse for keys to the car that will carry me home.