Gone Lawn
a journal of word-things
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Gone Lawn 53
wolf moon, 2024

Featured artwork, Within Grasp, by Jacelyn Yap

new works

Frances Orrok


She watches him go, noticing the heat already darkening his shirt back. She checks the clock. Seven twenty five and cool as it will be today. Not too late to water the tomatoes. She hears his neat suitcase trundling behind him down the road and pictures him boarding the flight he will take with his friends in a few hours, beer in hand.

Grace sighs. Not for the first time, she wishes he had a high-risk job. Fire-fighter, rig worker, bike courier.

Her Aunt Louisa, married to a naval pilot, would keep her husband's coffee cup unwashed on the top shelf until he had returned safely from each exercise. During tours of duty it would sit, just out of reach, waiting for the dread of an officer at her door. She never decided what she'd do then, once she'd received the news. She had told Grace that sometimes, alone at night, she would picture retrieving it from its spot to press her face against the last surface he had lipped. Sometimes she imagined the soft grey layers of dust that would accumulate over the next fifty years.

Growing up around this kind of talk, Grace had developed a keen ambivalence towards most boyfriends. She never felt murderous towards her current fiancé – a postman by trade – she simply preferred it when his presence wasn't guaranteed. There was something to be said for mortality, everyone knew that.

Whenever any of Aunt Louisa's friends complained about a mother-in-law, she would remind them of the time her pilot's mother had mistakenly washed that sacred cup, one summer afternoon, four months into a tour, while deep cleaning her daughter-in-law's kitchen. Aunt Louisa's fingers would hook the air around that phrase and her eyes would roll heaven-ward, just as Grace's would when she passed the story on to her own friends. They would gasp, then cheer and laugh, when Aunt Louisa said she had taken to her bed for a week, forcing Mother-In-Law to take the children.

Grace's aunt was the hero of most family tales. The besotted potential widow who never actually became one.

When Grace thought it through, she knew that to lose the only person with whom she could potentially discuss the potential cuteness of her potential children, would probably be a loss too great to bear. Still. Her aunt had been onto something. Imagining his loss made her tender. The thought of him sweating beside her three hundred and sixty five nights of the year did not.

Give me ten months alone with a coffee cup.

And now his stag-do was here, hiking in Corsica. He sends her a message from the airport bus: Colin's booked us in for a bungee jump!!! She turns off the hose, goes inside to clear the breakfast. For a moment, her hand lingers on his mug. Soggy toast crumbs stick to a pale, milky residue.

Picturing his descent, she fills the dishwasher and crosses her fingers.

Frances Orrok works with people in crisis. She won Smokelong Quarterly's Summer 2023 fiction prize and is a Pushcart nominee. She has a novel out on query and two small daughters. Twitter: @brightfell