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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-seven IN HIS WAKE



eaning back in his chair, Jack ran his fingers across his silk tie, beginning to lose interest in the other mourners. He did not know Mr. Cory well enough to speak to his character; they only spoke briefly in the employee break-room. But the pencil pusher felt some obligation to attend Richard’s wake given the untimeliness of his passing.

“Rick committed suicide,” Jack remembered his coworker Max saying after a few too many drinks. “They found traces of a poisonous plant called Aconite or Wolf’s Bane in his system. He purchased just enough to kill himself, seeing as there was no hint of the stuff anywhere in his home. His wife found him lying on the floor beside their bed, just like the playwright Tennessee Williams.”

“I never took Richard for the literary type.”

“Well,” he answered, casting his eyes downward, “he did have a flair for the theatrical.”

A flair for the theatrical, Jack presently thought to himself, looking around the crowded living room. If Richard was dramatic, then he and his wife’s taste for conservative floral wallpapering and porcelain figurines gave no indication of his temperament.

A woman in a dark blue dress suddenly renewed Jack’s interest in those around him as she made her way to the other side of the room, receiving cards, hugs, and flowers along the way. Wiping her face with a tissue, she placed the flowers in a vase before taking a seat next to Max, who, with an outstretched arm, comforted her as best he could. Mrs. Cory’s young face, with its beautifully clear skin and soft, tender features, held a pained expression.

Jack recalled the shouting match she and Richard had over the phone a week ago, with the recently deceased struggling to stop himself from screaming the word “infidelity.” No one knew who cheated on whom, but everyone had their own opinion on who was to blame.

I suppose it doesn’t matter now, Jack thought to himself before turning his attention to an old woman, the only person sporting a red blazer rather than dull shades of black and navy blue.

“I shouldn’t have to bury my son,” she told her companion with a quivering voice. “Parents should never bury their children.”

Without saying a word, the man embraced Richard’s mother as Max escorted her daughter in law out of the living room, cupping her hand in his.

“Nothing can bring him back,” the mother began, swallowing a deluge of tears, “but I am anxious to know how it all happened.”

After an uneasy pause, the man said, “I spoke to the coroner this morning.”

Wolf’s Bane, Jack thought to himself, remembering what Max told him. Richard Cory died from purposely ingesting Wolf’s Bane. They found him on his bedroom floor, just like Tennessee Williams.

“He said he’ll perform Richard’s autopsy tomorrow.”




Alexander Slotkin is a flash-fiction writer and graduate student pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Florida. His fiction has been featured in Literary Juice, HelloHorror, Blood Moon Rising, Mulberry Fork Review, Insanity's Horse, and The RavensPerch.

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