His Favorites

It was a day for offerings, but only if she’d get up.

From the bed, out her window, she squinted at the receding line of grey trees. Beyond was the yard, another darker grey in the afternoon shade, and beyond that, beyond all those shadows, well, greyness hooded the dismal town. She’d go.

A few cat hairs wisped from the fan, floated onto the pants of the slack navy suit. There was no body to fill it. She lay beside the double-breasted get-up on top of the coverlet, held onto the sleeve, imagined his hand there, felt the warmth of a gold band on a ghostly finger.

She rolled over the suit, whispered, “Let’s go.”

She hung the ensemble in the passenger seat, brought out his polished wingtips, tossed them onto the floorboard.

In the parking lot, she swerved into the last handicap spot.

As she carried the suit inside over her arm, she found her grocery list in his breast pocket, and hooked the hanger lengthwise over the shopping cart, smoothed out the gabardine cloth. Its worn shine rustled in the store’s cool fluorescence. She reminisced how once he’d filled it to bursting: the legs, arms, his taut torso. Now it slumped.

People stared.

She didn’t care. She held the limp arm, fiddled with the cuff buttons. While she stood in the cookie aisle, she swiped her tongue down the lapel.

Cookies. Ice cream sandwiches. Bologna. Strawberry Pop Tarts. She pulled a pants leg aside, loaded up the basket with multiples, then made her way to Ten Items or Fewer.

As all her departed’s favorites glided by like kids in a cafeteria line, she hugged the suit. The bored cashier didn’t make eye contact.


In the cemetery parking lot, she waved at Frederico the caretaker.

“Lizzie, you remembered Pop Tarts, sí?” She nodded and smiled, pulled the suit out of the car, slipped it off the hanger, tied it diagonally over one shoulder. Legs and arms knotted. It smelled like a cedar box crammed with pencils. She then pulled out his shoes into which she slid her own small, sneaker-clad feet.

Hugging the grocery bag, she clomped to the plot, four over, fifteen down.

A breeze rustled with expectation, picked at a Ginkgo tree over his grave. She opened the sack, lined up his treats at the tombstone. The ice cream sogged. The bologna flopped. Ants congregated single-file. She then tore open the box of Pop Tarts, placed each pastry carefully end-to-end around the edges of the rectangle of green, framing it.  The sun swiveled away on its hot gear, but the strawberry pink frosting still shimmered in the spare light. And as the wind picked up, the Mylar packaging crinkled away down the hill like a futile prayer.

She unknotted his suit and lay face down on it, plank-like, inhaled its musk, then flopped his shoes off her feet, dug her ear into the ground. Mist descended, and a slight rain oversimplified the graveyard. Everything felt vague, more faint. She waited until his dry hand scratched up from under the grass, gritty fingers rifling for his prize, listened for his rhythmic chewing to commence so she could tell him about her grey day.


author bio:

photo by Bill Ragsdale

Cate McGowan is the author of the collection, True Places Never Are (Moon City Press, 2015), winner of the Moon City Press Short Fiction Award. A Georgia native whose flash is anthologized in W. W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, she’s contributed to many publications, including Glimmer TrainCrab Orchard Review, and Vestal Review. McGowan’s currently pursuing a PhD in philosophy. To discover more about Cate, visit: http://www.catemcgowan.com/