“To the End” by Alan Stewart Carl

That evening, after I’d patched myself up, she called me to the back porch to point out a double rainbow, duel arcs untouching, colliding into the hill behind our house.

She stood with arms crossed, shirt still stained with the sauce and wine of her latest fit, hair unwashed for how many days I wish I could say. Her face was turned away, but I could hear her breathing, heavy, as if taking in the full dampness of the air, the wetness of our cedar porch.

“Don’t you think this means something?” she asked, nodding towards the sky.

At another time, years before, we’d come upon one of these rainbows while in a traffic jam: two sweeps of color, unblemished, bending across the road. She’d made me pull over; then she’d stepped from the car. She said she’d never seen such a sight before. She said it made the traffic and the heat and everything and everything worthwhile.

“It’s …” I said, standing there on the porch, looking upwards. I considered the words, their implications. “It’s worthwhile.”

“Worthwhile?” she said. “You think it’s … worthwhile?”

“I didn’t …” I said and ran a finger along the bandage on my face. I wondered if she even understood what she’d done. “You know what I mean,” I said.

She dropped her head back, hair falling in its tangles. “Climb up there with me,” she said. “Find out where they end.”

“Baby,” I said, resisting the want to step nearer, to slide my hands over her thinness, those bones, the remains of the woman I still remembered. “I called a … a facility,” I said. “I’m going to drive you there. Tonight.”

She made a sound like she was sucking at the air. “Just think what we could find,” she said. “If you’d go with me …” She turned, face blotched, lips red and chapped. They’d been that way for weeks. I don’t know. Months, maybe.

“Why don’t you care?” she said, reaching for me and taking me by the wrist. Already the rainbow was dissolving, reabsorbing into the spectrums. She saw me looking at this and she turned to see it, too. I thought she might fall into me then, that she might run her fingers across the bandage on my face and say she was sorry. Instead, she let go of my arm and ran, staggering, then flinging herself from the deck and falling into the wetness of the grass. I watched as she rolled to her back, eyes searching.

“There’s nothing there,” I said.

When she pushed herself to her knees, I stepped off the deck and I grabbed her by the shoulders. I twisted both arms behind her back and told her to be still.

I suppose there should be something significant to say about this moment, some admission to having cried or to having hated myself as I held her and refused to let her free. But the truth of it is: I was calm. As she screamed and kicked and tried to break free, I held firm and watched her hair whip and twirl. I thought about that other time, that evening out there on the freeway. How, after she’d gotten out of the car, she’d started walking down the shoulder of the road towards the point where the first of the double rainbows seemed to touch. I remembered thinking her so endearing in that, thinking her something beautiful and wild. Then, as I leaned my weight into her and forced her towards the car, I remembered how, on the road, she’d turned at some point and she’d motioned for me to join. I couldn’t remember if I had done so; it seemed like nothing I would do. But as she struggled and twisted and spit at my face, I decided that I had indeed gotten out of that car. I’d gotten out of that car and I’d followed her for as long as we could go. Every step. Every last one.

More fiction at Used Furniture.


  1. motherofmadness says:

    What a powerful last line – great short.

  2. Heather Luby says:

    What a powerful last line – great short


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