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The great melting expanse

a short story about junebug and her little ribcage

By Andrew Martin DodsonPublished 3 years ago • 4 min read
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Men in dress shirts buried their suits out here

Guitars like fighter jets in a giant vacuum blare in the empty caverns of her home. A ribcage with feet and a smile dance in a light pitter-patter behind the woman--an occasional scream, an off-beat clap. Wind puffs up the edge of bank papers on the cold, splintered floor. Empty cans of tuna, a miniature fridge with mayonnaise, a small jar and a computer remain. And the ribcage, she dances and laughs.

Gears turn, code graces the screen. A thud. The woman turns around, her little one on the floor. The ribcage cries. The woman holds her little one and squeezes her--they close their eyes together.

The woman's mother had wires upon wires protrude from her flesh. Life slowly ebbed. Medical records were nowhere to be found. I'm sorry, the nurse with a face like an old slab of oak told her, her insurance ain't here. Can you call them, she asked. No.

The woman sets her little one down and looks her in the eyes. You okay? she asks.

yeah y-yeah... the ribcage responds.

Mommy doesn't have much time, she assures her. We don't have much time. Is your bag packed?

The ribcage nods with a smile. can we see grandpa, she almost demands.

The woman sat across from her father, the dining table--a cedar chasm--between them. His face gaunt and elongated with lines like cracking wood. His skin, devoid of vibrancy, ready for the next place. It ain't gonna be long, junebug. Eventually... he waved his fist through the air and opened his hand to the sound of a pop in his voice. They're comin'. I won't be here when they do, you and me and your daughter, we'll be like nomads. Traversing the great melting expanse together, if you can find me. Will you be able to find me, junebug?

Their tools are scarce. The computer beeps. Power low. Can you do me a favor, can you turn down the music?

yep mama.

All that we can save. Where was the cord? That fucking cord. Did they cook it for pasta? Was it donated to the earth?

The woman focuses again. The great gift about to be undone by a tiny piece of plastic and wire, she thinks to herself, bitter. Cold. Her fingers speed up even as they lose feeling. Her breath forms in the air before her, a ball of frost, she imagines script cutting through the fibers of her frozen cloud.

Outside, trees sway to music of a buckling earth. Rumbles from distant cities shake the bones of the people on the outskirts of tourist-friendly breakfast spots. Men in dress shirts bury their suits in the endless wood behind her home. They stand around, motionless, their eyes do not have pupils anymore.

The ribcage catches a glimpse of a man with a shovel. He lifts his hand, a small wave. Ribcage runs outside, mud and sweat kick up around her.

did you lose something, she asks the man in a dress shirt--one of many.

In a way, sure.

do you need help finding it, she asks.

Can you see the pile of dirt here? Can you tell its a pile of dirt?

no its pretty flat.

I'll be back for it, I hope it looks a little more mature, a little like its been through something, you know?

The woman leaps from her computer and cuts her foot on a small in the floor as she falls into the kitchen counter. Her eyes peer out into the wood and catch the ribcage. Get the fuck back in here sweetie! Please.

that's my mom. i have to go.

Good luck!

thanks mister. Ribcage races back to her mom.

Grab your mother a wet towel, water should still be on. Luckily for her, it is. Wet towel wrapped around her open wound, the woman crawls back to the dying light of the small computer.

We can't do what we need to do here, you understand? Where we gotta go, that's where we can finish this.

Ribcage nods, she just hopes there was food where they were headed.

It ain't much, but it's a gift. A gift.

Ribcage nods again.

Grandpa held his granddaughter, bright-eyed, smile wide--a happier time--swung her around like a plush toy attached to the edge of a ceiling fan, endless sky engulfed her. On his lap, they sat and stared out at the beautiful, endless forest behind his home. Your mama helped me get this place, I wanted somewhere you could play forever.

thanks, the granddaughter said, her stomach churning with the endless possibilities he just afforded her.

Your mama is smarter than I ever was, than her own mama or grandma, than your aunt or uncle. Sometimes, it hurts her head. But it's gotten her very far and it's gonna get you very far too. She ain't a redneck like yer ol' grandpappy! he said with a deep chortle.

The granddaughter hugged him, her 50 pounds felt like a vice grip cursed with the burden of love. He let out an oomph and hugged back.

Do you want to press the button?

what is it? ribcage asks.

It's... it's something. I don't really know yet.

are we gonna find grandpa?

I don't know. Hit enter, sweetie. Ribcage nods. Enter.

did you make something complicated? it looks complicated.

It is. But I didn't make it. I don't want those expert fuckers with their buried suits to find us.

those expert fuckers... ribcage smiles.

Those expert fuckers, yeah. The expert fuckers that broke this world never get to speak again, she quotes with aplomb.

The caverns of their empty home boom with the sound of nomadic ghosts. The mouth of the dark forest swallows the woman and the little ribcage whole as they disappear into the world.

The men in dress shirts keep digging. One of them hopes he can find his spot when he returns.

family
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About the Creator

Andrew Martin Dodson

Author, music snob, husband, parent, amateur neck cracker. A quintuple threat, if you will. This is a space for personal essays, life stories (and lessons learned), as well as unfinished/belongs-nowhere-else fiction. Enjoy!

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