UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION

CEZARIJA ABARTIS

The Road

They did not know about the abyss until it swallowed them, and they tumbled around in the maw and down the gullet. And disappeared. But for a few seconds, as they

somersaulted to the bottom, they understood.

Grace recalled meeting Perry. She thought he had said, “Take the road of excess with me,” but he had actually said, “For example, take the board of assessments.” Her ears whooshed from her shower. Perry noticed her flushed skin and wet curls around her forehead. Her dark eyes were fixed on his face as if he had a secret to divulge. He trembled at the responsibility.

Grace said, “All right.”

She reached her hand out to Perry before they struck bottom. Their fingertips burned as they touched. She remembered eating two bananas for their first breakfast together because that was all Perry had in his kitchen.

“That was a Vesuvius of owls.”

“What did you say?” she asked on that first morning and brushed back his brown hair.

“Thank goodness I’m not out of towels. I don’t want you to think I’m unhygienic, on top of being terrible at provisions. I’m not a dirty young man.”

Perry’s next thought as they plunged toward the bottom was regret that they did not have children. Who would mourn them?

Grace could read his mind. “Do we need mourning?”

This time he thought she said, “Do we meet in the morning?”

He could see their car from above as it broke through the railing and hung in the air for a millisecond. He wanted to pull her up to him like a flying hero or god but realized he was crashing with her into the endless dark.

She had thought they had understood each other perfectly, but now she knew they had misunderstood each other perfectly. He had thought she was merely pretty but came to see she was steady. He thought he wanted to practice law but found he preferred teaching.

She saw her grandmother die, and her mother, and an older cousin, and then there was no one left but them. They were the repositories of ancient memories, and it was time to make room for the new grass. She reached her hand out to him as he was falling. His gray hair flew up, but he did not seem afraid. She said, “All right.”

“All right,” he said.


Cezarija Abartis' Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in Grey Sparrow Review, Ghoti, Everyday Genius, Slushpile Magazine, Word Riot, Twilight Zone Magazine, Manoa, Story Quarterly, and New York Tyrant (which also gave her story The Lidano Fiction Award). Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University.







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