Molly Meneely

Pas de Deux


Darcy loved Merrill and Merrill loved Darcy. They stood in the tomato garden on a Sunday afternoon beneath the redwood and admired the dirt under each others’ fingernails.

“Tomorrow is bridge at the Murphy’s,” said Darcy, crouching now to examine the undersides of the leaves between the wire mesh meant to keep out rabbits.

“I’d like to play golf in the afternoon,” said Merrill. He placed his hands on his hips and looked up to the sky. He watched the extending white trail of a commercial jet blend in with the central light of the sun.

“We should rent a movie tonight,” said Darcy.

“Something old,” said Merrill.

“Something foreign,” said Darcy, rising, “and not too long.”

Inside the kitchen they washed their hands and dried them on the crinkle-woven cotton towel. Darcy filled the metal teapot from the sink and took two Earl Grey bags from the nearest cabinet, placed them each on a saucer with a small stainless steel spoon. Merrill collected the newspaper off the kitchen table and set it in the recycling bin they kept in the attached garage. He turned on the television, turned down the volume, and turned to face his wife when the high-pitched coo of the water began to intensify.

“Tea’s ready,” said Darcy.

Merrill took his wife by the waist and kissed her wrinkled but soft forehead. He let out a sigh. She leaned onto his chest for a moment before she pulled away and poured the tea. Clouds moved over the house and lent light gray shadows to the beige linoleum floor which only moments before had been yellow. Out the window, a hummingbird caught Merrill’s eye; she was exploring the insides of some hollyhocks, those that Darcy kept in rows along the side of the house; her invisible wings beat silently and several breaths later, she was gone.


A brown beard and sideburns thirty years ago; now bald on top and feathery white tufts above his ears. Thick-knuckled fingers wrapped in wrinkles; reddish palms, the same as the end of his nose and the rims of his eyes. Construction, a soda fountain, washing neighborhood cars, infantry, insurance adjustment, management, retirement. Brother, father, grandfather, husband. Tin Roof Sundae ice cream, creamed corn, cornbread. Breadwinner, collector of rare bottlecaps, once sled down a hill of grass. This morning imagined his death, falling from the wings of a bird to the green ground, splayed like a leaf, equal parts love and regret.


Tightly curled dyed light brown cropped close about her ears. An acute sense of smell, aversion to processed foods, and penchant for jewelry; wearing a diamond bracelet always. Small-boned, narrow waisted, pants fifteen years old, blouse six. Three daughters, spread across the world, spread thin like ice on a spring lake. Pack rat, book borrower; owner of nervous tic, Grandfather clock, and Elizabeth Taylor autograph. Tarot, Christmas, and credit cards; a fine glass of aged cabernet. Close-hearted, warm hands, a voice like a cool breeze through humid air. Once stole tomatoes from a neighbor’s yard, housed a pregnant stray kitten, listened with a stethoscope to her own beating heart.


The coffin seemed too short, too shiny, too high upon the dais edged by thick wreathes of lilies and green, swathed in crisp ribbon. Darcy fingered the diamonds circling her wrist; they were dull in the amber-lit room. She sat in the front because she was supposed to, because people expected her there, because they would gauge and modify their grief according to hers. A swift and silent slayer inside his brain had hunted, concealed. Darcy had smelled death coming and she had half-known it in the shrill whistle of the teapot, the way the stems of her tomato plants had begun to lean away from the sun. At the Murphy’s kitchen table, snacking on smoked almonds, he had held too few points to bid the three spades he declared. She admired the minister’s empty comforts and knew: she should have seized Merrill by the shoulders, grabbed those bones and joints in her rapt fingers, registered delight, and reminded herself for forever what he was to hold.



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