Salt on Our Tails
Before I know anything of death I am walking with my Mother down a wet suburban street.
The air smells of rain and of the smoke hidden in my hair.
I see him before she does.
He is partially concealed under a dirty ficus, pants down,
smiling at my face with crooked pleasure.
“Don’t look!” she squeaks, trading places so I am at the edge of the sidewalk farthest from him.
She takes my arm and when we pass him, we slap our hands together coordinating a rhythm. I never told her that I saw and I never knew she was teaching me a lesson.
Instead, I take on her straight back, her forward facing gaze, and we slap slap as his bent smile becomes a thread in our damp clothes.
I am with the girls at the fancy park.
We walk the wooden planks that run between rows of brightly colored flowers.
The dark workers will be planting new ones soon: in crayola apricot, crimson, cobalt, periwinkle and violet.
But now there is just earth and we play.
I go one way, the girls go another and we intersect to great excitement. The eldest spots the coffee-colored mouse lying on its side, legs stiff in the air.
To her I admit he is dead, but to the younger one I say he’s resting.
I lead them to another plank and we forget and forget about the mouse with the long pink tail, the deadest thing alive.
I am at the yoga studio. There is usually no death here, just different degrees of flexibility.
But on the morning of October 30 they tell me Idit has died.
I rise, reaching for memory’s tail. Idit before me:
her red hair. her skin, slippery with lotion.
her rare smile. her two bad teeth. her lipstick caught in the deep grooves.
her Argentinian artist husband, stiff as a board.
her right hip, shattered in the car accident back when she was pretty.
her ambition. her perfection. her harshness.
her rounded upper back. her little tummy. the freckles on her legs.
her bony butt, thin, without protection. her warm wobbly voice.
her small, ethnic purse that hung on a string.
Maya Klein is a writer and translator based in Tel-Aviv. Her fiction, translations and book reviews have appeared in The Ilanot Review, Ma’aboret: The Short Story Project, The Literarian and The Blue Lyra Review.