A Slant of Light
by Abby Manzella
The afternoon sun creeps stealthily onto Dolores’s desk—an ephemeral cat. Its low, reserved angle brings to mind Emily Dickinson’s “There’s a certain slant of light…” She recites it as she rests her pen, her voice breaking the stillness.
It has already been a long winter. She is tired of sweaters. She is exhausted by seeing her breath materialized like the ghost she feels herself to be.
No longer does she have anyone to speak to on a daily basis, now, without her wife. Without June. Sometimes she waves to neighbors as she walks down her road, the one without sidewalks. She both resents and welcomes the absence of that concrete beneath her feet. There is not a building in sight that reaches above the tree line, leaving her immersed in the woods. She likes the brittle tufts of grass staving off the loose gravel from the road.
Still, she knows there is danger at every turn. Stephen King was hit on just such a roadside in his own New England town. She’s heard all about the mystery writer because often, when she introduces herself at cocktail parties as an author, others respond, “Do you like Stephen King?” She holds back her groans; cocktail parties themselves are groan worthy. She no longer drinks martinis with the professional class and their ilk, so no one has compared her to King in quite some time.
He’s not the only one, though, who’s been harmed on twisting roads. In her town, a streetlight worker was killed when a certain slant of light caught a driver’s eyes, blinding him to the woman on a ladder. Thud, and all was silent.
Dolores had never minded the silence before. Before, she embraced the hush all around her when she sat with her thoughts and her writing. She was even thankful that she still composed by hand, not by clacking keys as everyone else would have it. The swoosh of her pen is much preferred. So much weight does she place behind her words that even the next page on her legal pad maintains her imprint.
A stack of June’s legal pads remains and her reading glasses sit on the bed stand. When Dolores woke that morning last autumn and her wife didn’t, she begged the arriving examiners not to disturb June who was lying just where she belonged, although too still. But the strangers hustled around the room, touching what was not theirs to touch and unsettling even the air in their wake.
The day of June’s death was bright and clear. It was the kind of day when a pet might curl up in the warmth of window-shaped sunshine, repositioning only as the rays, fractured by the angle of the glass panes, skulked across the floor. The examiners took June as the day wore on, cloaking her in a white sheet that appeared from nowhere. Dolores remained with the quiet and herself. By nightfall June’s impression in the bed was gone.
Abby Manzella is the author of Migrating Fictions: Gender, Race, and Citizenship in U.S. Internal Displacements, which was awarded the honorable mention for the MLA Book Prize for Independent Scholars. She has published with the Boston Globe, Literary Hub, Electric Lit, The Rumpus, Jellyfish Review, Catapult, and elsewhere. You may find her on Twitter @AbbyManzella.
Image original: Ruan Richard/Unsplash