by Ladisa Quintanilla

It felt like a fire erupted from above, invisible molten sparks singeing the hairs on my arms, melting my skin into puddles of brown tar.  It was hot.  I came home to bury my uncle.  We weren’t close, but those things are forgotten in death. 

I noticed life; whispered to myself, Heavy leaves.  Cocoons crack.  Butterflies. 

He never said things like that, but I have a feeling he thought that way.  He wanted blue for his funeral.  His children gave him that much. 

It was Monday.  I wasn’t wearing my typical Monday clothes.  Those were across an ocean, rumpled on an unswept floor.  The weatherman declared rain.  We knew better, my uncle and I.  He’d have sun on his last day.  Yellow complements blue.        

Cameras snapped with more care than usual.  Everyone wore their proper faces.  When it was over, I changed. 

I wore my favorite house shirt and a pair of cotton pants.  I carried a stick of charcoal; it melted in my right hand.  We’re all superhuman that way.  My skin grew sticky; my black hand tugged at my favorite shirt.  This too would not wash off.  

I walked toward the headstone sea, the tip of my tongue dabbing grains of salt from my lips.  A new headstone for a new sandy grave was easy to find.  One hand flattened tracing paper; the other rubbed charcoal.  I thought of tradition, of mistakenly trapping his soul, of honor.  Johnny appeared more brilliant against my black smudges.  A framed name cannot be as easily forgotten as an unframed one.

It was done.  My Pacific roared.

Ladisa Quintanilla recently earned her MFA in creative writing from Naropa University.  Her short memoir of life on the island of Guam was recently published in The Square Table.  She is currently working on a collection of short stories and family memoirs.