Concise Prose. Enough Said.
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Mechanics Of The Universe

By Shelly Rich

When I was a junior in high school, I went to the senior prom and a group of us went out to Marin’s lake to skinny dip and fool around. My date drank way too much, and chased the girl everyone called Loosey Goosey. They disrobed and thrashed around on the pier. She got splinters in her butt, and he got herpes.

Benny was there and slipped his hand in mine. “Sorry kid.” I didn’t mind. Benny was far better looking than my date, and sweet. The sky was dark and endless, looped by a halo of horizon, lit only by the pin-prickly stars. He pushed me in a tire swing, running around in front of me as my toes rose toward him. “You’ve got the moon in your eyes,” he said. My chiffon swished in the breeze as I kicked my legs and went back and forth. When he touched the small of my back, I knew the meaning of swoon; our first kiss was soft like cotton and tingly like cinnamon and he told me, if it was the last thing he’d do, he’d capture the moon. “We’ll see,” I told him.

We married and had three children—he called them our Electrons—who grew up and scattered around the country, but never too far or too long. Benny’s explanation: “Wouldn’t be a nucleus if they didn’t make orbits.” He loved musing over mechanics of the universe.

We moved from being frazzled young parents, scraping and saving, to forking it all back out to the kids, and then we busted tail again to make sure we could spend our fifties traveling and exploring, dawdle with discovery. But things don’t always work out as planned, just like I learned the first night we met. For me, that night was close to heaven on earth; the last three months were close to hell.

I reminded him of prom night often as he was dying. I stroked his hair, joked about the boy’s poor privates and the plank fragments in Loosey’s fanny, how their misery led to my happiness and the life we’d treasured. For some reason, neither one of us could ever remember that boy’s name. Sometimes when I recounted the story he would laugh nearly to tears.

It took three months of hospitals, narcotics, Hospice. I fluffed his pillows like he had done for me through all of our years together; he had spoiled me from our wedding night on. “Celestial beings gotta have clouds to rest on,” he would tell me. At night I’d look up and make his face out in the stars.

One morning Benny whispered, “Time for lift-off.” His face was pale, every breath a struggle. “Please.” He nodded at his morphine I.V. and touched his chest—his heart—and I knew it was my turn to relinquish. “Then let’s blast off, baby,” I murmured.

As I gazed in his glossed-over eyes those last few minutes, our eyes forged an arc that flung us to our joint destination. In an instant, time and space fused into the energy of dreams and emitted the truth in Benny‘s metaphysics. I released possession and felt peace as the moon beamed from Benny’s eyes. He captured it after all.


Shelly Rich hides herself in the western North Carolina mountains where she likes to make things up and mix them with truth. Some of her delusions are found or forthcoming in places like Eyeshot, Opium’s first print issue, and The Binnacle.


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