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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-two CECELIA



he chewed her lips. The brooch heaved with her chest, the shining crystals set in black rhodium sparkling against the roof of the luxury sedan. A tingle of relief moved from her head, past her heart, into her fingertips. The massive party with champagne and tiny h'orderves and half-laughing guests was over for her this night. She could now divert her attention back to what she wanted to do; speak with the ghosts near her home, a grey castle tower built in the 1920s beyond the city and just past the suburbs. Before the party, wrapped in a cloak of rough wool, she had purchased the bait to lure the spirits from the lake on which the castle perched: a small broom of dried rosemary, orange peel spiced candles, and black cone incense. Her driver, mute but not dumb, knew her plans as he pulled into the oyster shell drive of the tower, and not risking his soul, sped away, spewing shells from beneath the tires once she had mostly exited the vehicle.

She lit a cigarillo with a match and brought it to her lips, which were a most beautiful shade of red from the nervous biting and peeling of skin, the blood always close to the surface, always threatening to leak forth. She had forgotten her cloak inside the car with no hope of retrieving it, but the muggy warmth easily crept through the satin of her gown. She dipped the rosemary broom into the still water, shaking the wet drops into the sky and onto her face. She licked her thin-skinned lips and tasted the brine and dirt and stink of the liquid. She plopped to the ground, legs crossed, bottom wet in the grime of the shore, and lit the cones, holding one in each palm, puffing on the cigarillo.

She needed no words, no chants or rhymes to pull them up from the waters, just statuesque stillness and eyes half closed, bleary. The cigarillo had long succumbed to the damp, but the cones burned on. As the cones burned down, her palms grew hotter, her face felt colder, her vision fuzzed and just as the last life whiffed out of each cone, the wick of the candle snapped yellow, orange, white, hot blue. Perplexed by the burning, searing light, dripping shadows of black mire began rising from the water’s still surface, ripples appearing in the otherwise still lake, drawn to the sharp citrus smell and warm yellow light.

“The sun,” one spoke.

“The orange orchards,” another croaked.

A father, a son, former owners of a citrus farm further out into the backcountry. Probably murdered for their land, maybe by family, tossed into the waters to have their bodies bloat then melt in the slime.

“I am lonely tonight, good sirs, tell me your tale,” she asked of them.

They obediently relayed their tale of woe; of making a money deposit from the farm to the bank fourteen miles away, of the ambush, the men waiting just for their beat down pick up truck to stop at the crossroad. To take their money, their ride, their lives.

After the telling, she drew a deep breath, the flame of the candle sucking in toward her. She pulled harder with her lungs, the flame drawing out long and thin toward her, the unlit cigarillo falling from her lips. She reversed the stream, an arc of flame shooting from her mouth, spewing all over the slick, green mucus of their deteriorated bodies. The son and father twisted and howled, hitting the soft earth trying to extinguish themselves. Black and grey ash floated into the night air which the woman inhaled into her lungs. Their bodies shriveled to reveal slowly rising, dusty white forms, a man young and old standing before her. They were released, and together they strolled away from the shoreline, back to their home, back to peace.

The woman chewed her lips, shouldering their torture.




Emily Bufford resides in New Orleans with her husband and two kitty cats. She is a librarian, but don't be surprised to see her sporting pink eyebrows and bright outfits. Find out more at www.EmilyBufford.com.

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