Plain China

Dancing to Death

by Forest Balderson · Eckerd College
Limitations, Grace Tobin · Oberlin College

Shortly after my dad shot and killed himself

I visited my mom at the Town Tavern.

She looked like a vampire, drained, rejecting

life-giving blood from its only son.

 

On a barstool next to her, I stared through

bottled spirits at her haunting gray reflection

befogging the silver and black-spotted mirror.

 

With a weak grasp of her shot glass

she raised her skeletal arm, dragging its skin.

We toasted my father’s eternal damnation.

 

Our glasses clacked a short-lived lonely slap.

With a single swallow and a shallow gasp

she exhaled her confession: I killed him.

 

In a staggered march over shelled peanuts

she made her way to the jukebox.

Bony fingers pecked a well-rehearsed combination—

George Jones’s hit single: He Stopped Loving Her Today.

 

In a wavy return, her parched lips mimed

the first line, which fully executed her late husband’s

contract before God: He said I’ll love her ’til I die.

 

I shot up to save her direction. I coaxed her hollow body

to the dance floor. In a forsaken embrace, I felt

Jones’s chorus beat and beat her heart on my chest.

 

I clumsily trumpeted my fingers over the small

of her back—my childish attempt at resuscitating

my father’s maneuver, which led her once vibrant

body over sprinkled sawdust, entwined as one

in weightless whirls.

About the Author

Forest Balderson · Eckerd College

Forest Balderson graduated with honors from Eckerd College with a BA in Creative Writing. He is currently pursuing a Masters of Science degree in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy at Bay Path University. "Dancing to Death" first appeared in The Eckerd Review.

About the Artist

Grace Tobin · Oberlin College

As of May 2016, Grace Tobin will graduate from Oberlin College with a B.A. in Visual Arts, a concentration in Art History, and a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. Grace strives to bring together personal reflection and social commentary through her work in print, paint, drawing and installation."Limitations" first appeared in Plum Creek Review. Learn more about Grace Tobin's work here