She said not to wait up, that she’d probably crash with her sister.
The next morning she is headline news.
At the police station, on an uncomfortable chair.
“We got the son-of-a-bitch,” they say. “He’ll be tried for double homicide. Once we get the report from her doctor. That’s what’ll happen.”
Home to crushing quiet, you look up the definition of homicide over and over, waiting for it to change.
The dictionary is an old Merriam Webster that belonged to your father. It has all the definitions but none of the answers.
Your father calls. You pick up this time.
He asks how you’re holding up. You ask if he remembers that old dictionary.
“Yes,” he says.
“It’s been a source of great comfort.”
He asks if you’re okay.
“I’ve been looking up words,” you say. “All I want to do is sit and read the dictionary.”
“Matthew … I’ll be there tomorrow. Can you—will you be alright? By yourself?”
“I doubt it,” you say, and hang up.
He calls back, but you let the machine take it. You know it’s selfish but it feels right. You’re tired and have nothing to say. He says he knows you’re there. He asks you to come to the phone, over and over, until you do. You lift the phone and throw it against the wall; that feels right, too. Next you throw the plates across the kitchen. Ceramic shrapnel. You go through the entire apartment in this way, until everything’s broken. Only the dictionary is left, untouched in the rubble. You pick it up gently, flip through its pages gently, strike a match gently, light it on fire gently, and watch it burn, gently, watch the pages turn black and the smoke rise. The smoke alarm doesn’t go off because you stabbed it with the mop.
You sit there, watching language burn. It burns. So. Fucking. Gently.
About the author:
Emil Ostrovski is a twenty-one year old philosophy major attending Vassar College. He is represented by Laura Langlie of the Laura Langlie Literary Agency and has had two other short stories published in Word Riot.