Merry Widow Last Halloween, we dressed as Death, walked to an abandoned neighborhood, took photographs. You stood on the steps of an empty police station and leered for the camera. I wore a purple mask with exaggerated eye sockets and a cape made from torn black lace. You, a tee-shirt with grimacing demons and faded Converse high-tops. Two nights ago, I built an ofrenda from cardboard boxes, covered with strips of multicolored tapestries. To honor the dead, offer them beverages and their favorite treats. Arrange sugar skulls along the perimeter, to remind them of the sweetness of life. Incorporate four elements: air, earth, fire, water. Don’t forget pictures: you in a forest, leaning against a picket fence, or huddled over your first guitar, fierce concentration on your unblemished face. No one knew that boy would never see 60: his liver devoured by cancer, mandibles gnawing themselves into nonexistence. This year, I dressed as a merry widow. My breasts erupted from their too-tight corset as I swayed in a bar amongst strangers. I shouldn’t survive with so little effort, when you tried your hardest but failed. Each morning, my eyes glimpse the same outlines. Lungs inhale, release. Everything still in working order. Another random pile of paper strewn across the coffee table, and dishes left over from last night’s meal. Nothing to do except live. Your face recedes, even as I extend a hand. Whenever I hear music, both of my feet twitch, then dance. Forgive me. I am not yet Death, but my turn will come. Today, I removed your altar, returned the offerings to their original places. Somebody needs to eat the chocolate. Behind the boxes, a bark scorpion pressed its translucent body against the wall, stiff tail coiled in useless defense, only to expire from lack of oxygen. I scooped the corpse from its hiding place, flushed the pieces down my toilet. As I watched the scorpion disappear, I wondered if I had killed it too.
Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Bisbee, Arizona. She is the author of nine prose and poetry books, published by numerous small presses. Her latest chapbook, Land of Eternal Thirst (Dumpster Fire Press), was released in 2021. Leah’s work appears in Rattle, Midway Journal, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and elsewhere. Her website is www.leahmueller.org.