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"Ashes" by Stuart Watson

Updated: Apr 30

TW/CW: some imagery may be disturbing to some readers

First we have a body. Then we have ashes. It’s not like cremation nullifies the body. It’s

conversion therapy, like if you had a gay person and then you put them in a large oven until all

that attitude went away. You still have to get rid of ashes. Instead of burial, you need to do a

scattering. It’s still a ceremony, even if it’s just your brothers and your cranky uncle, who

never liked your mom in the first place. You may not even know where your Mom wanted to

be scattered, because every time you asked, she started crying. Like the thought of becoming

nothing but ash bothered her, a woman who had smoked prodigious amounts of cigarettes her

whole life. So everybody grabs a cocktail and wanders into the backyard of a house your

brother will sell two years later. Nobody has much to say but they say it anyway. Then the

owner of the property sprinkles Mom around the roots of a rose. Fitting. Prickly bitch. One

brother pours his scotch on the roots of the rose. A third brother looks at the ash and wonders

where the lipstick-stained butts went. You tip your martini back and down it in two gulps.

There, wasn’t that easier than a big hole in the ground and ridiculous floral bouquets? All

that’s left is disposing of the guilt, growing in your gut. True, Mom didn’t have any friends.

Still, it seems like something more flashy would’ve been nice. Some leftover sparklers from

Halloween. Lit with Mom’s cigarette lighter. Ironic, but not in the least bit poetic. You

wander back to the house and wonder what Mom is thinking now, but one more drink puts

that thought to rest.

Honored for his work at newspapers in Anchorage, Seattle and Portland, Stuart Watson has placed literary work in Bull, Yolk, Barzakh, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Bending Genres (Best Microfictions nominee), The Writing Disorder, Reckon Review, Sensitive Skin, The Muleskinner Journal and other publications, all linked from He lives in Oregon.

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