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IN THE SAME CATEGORY AS BLOO AND DROP DEAD FRED

Cindy Maddera

Chris blindly reached his hand over to grab his favorite pen, except the pen was not there. Chris felt certain he’d left that pen there on the side table. He continued to blindly pat around on the table, searching for his pen. Finally he got up and looked over the top of the side table. He picked up his books and papers that he had stacked there. Still, Chris did not see his pen. He frowned as he set the books and papers back onto the side table and scratched his head. He was almost certain that was the last place he saw that pen. Maybe it rolled off the table, Chris thought. So, he got down on his hands and knees and started rummaging around on the floor, looking under the table and that corner of the couch. He was really starting to frustrated when Cindy walked into the living room. “What are you doing?” she asked. Her question startled Chris enough to make him jump and then bump his head on the bottom of the couch. Chris replied through gritted teeth “I’m looking for my favorite pen.” Cindy tilted her head to one side and said “which one?” Chris sighed heavily, “You know. The metal one with the orange ring around the top. I know I left it on this table, but it’s not here.” Cindy walked over to the coffee table and picked up one of Chris’s journals. She opened the journal and extracted Chris’s favorite pen. “This one?” she said as she held the pen up. Chris smiled and reached to take the pen from her hand. “Yes! That one!”

It’s a story I wrote on Saturday, in the Fortune Cookie journal. The prompt had something to do with writing your hearts desires or dreams or something like that. It’s the first time since I’ve started writing in that journal where I used Chris and I as characters. The story is fiction, but could have easily been something that really happened. You did not have to know Chris long to know he had a thing for pens. And journals. I have a superpower that I mostly never mention and that’s an ability to just know where stuff is. This is why it was so weird that I couldn’t find my scooter key after Chris died. I might not know exactly where everything is, but I can usually give you three locations of possibility and whatever it is you’re looking for is guaranteed to be in one of those three spots. I’m not saying that I can do this all the time, but it happens just often enough for some people really close to me to notice my abilities.

It’s quite possible that I only thought I was writing a fictitious story about a moment in the day and life of Chris and Cindy. That’s the thing about these memories. As time passes, the memories start to feel like dreams or wishes. No one here got a chance to really know Chris or even meet him. When I talk about my life before, the life when Chris was still alive, it sounds like I’m talking about a pretend life. Sometimes I feel like Christopher Robin explaining to a grown up about the existence of his best friend, Winnie the Pooh. Chris is some imaginary person. If only I could just walk down the street to Madame Foster’s and hang out with him. Oh, the shenanigans we’d get into or the movies we’d watch. You know what’s dumb? If that was at all possible, that is exactly what we’d end up doing. All those questions I have for him? I’d completely forget to ask any of them. The answers wouldn’t matter anymore.

I’ve been working hard at being present in this current life. When I find myself in a small-talk kind of conversation with a stranger and they ask me how long I’ve lived in Kansas City, I’ve started saying that I moved here about seven years ago (or is it eight?). I don’t say “My late husband and I moved here about seven years ago.” I’ve stopped including Chris in my story of the move to Kansas City. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s just easier, less confusing. Leaving him out of it ensures that I will not get that look of sympathy that usually makes me cringe and I don’t have to answer any follow up questions regarding how he died or what life is like as a widow. I don’t have to explain anything. For a moment I can pretend to be someone else, someone without a sad backstory. Only for a moment. Eventually I slip up and say something about a late husband.

I’d make a terrible undercover agent.