Sunday, November 4, 2012

Out Of Nothing

Out of Nothing
By Micki Peluso

Rated "PG13" by the Author

This is a multi-layered story about coming through to the other side of grief.

I sit and stare through the small french window overlooking a seedy, neglected yard. It is my only pastime, this gaze into nothing, awaiting the day when I will join this emptiness that whispers my name, that teases my weakened senses. My soul is winter yearning for the spring that will never come. .

Fierce, high-pitched screams interrupt my stupor. It's been going on for days, perhaps weeks. I do not recall the passage of time, except the change from daylight's brightness to the dark of night. First the scratching begins, like nails upon a blackboard, gentle at the onset, rising to a crescendo matching the elevation of my terror. The yowling starts soon after--a soul-wrenching discord that accelerates a slow and aching heart.

The assault continues for what seems like forever, repelling, yet alluring and somehow familiar. I must not yield to it. It will be the death of me, an unpleasant death, unlike the repose of the beckoning abyss. The old house adds its creaking and shifting to the sounds of imminent dread. We shudder together, the house and I, in apprehension of an unknown peril.

The wailing and clawing cease abruptly, as it always does, although each episode seems amplified and of greater length. The afghan pulled up around my shoulders soothes the chill brought on by the unheated house and the fear that has no name. As the aftermath of adrenaline recedes from my shaken body, a sweet languor causes me to doze. .

The doorbell rings, jarring me awake. Cranking the window open a crack, I call down, "Who is it?"

"It's only me, Mrs. Romano. Meals on Wheels. Can I come in?"

"Come right on up."

This door should be kept locked," says the man, as he reaches the top of the stairs.

I say nothing, for I know the thing from which I cringe will not walk upright through my unlocked door The man sets my dinner on a tray in front of my chair. The same old fare -- watery instant mashed potatoes, a gray slab of meat, some bread, and an apple to challenge my dentures.

"Why, thank you, John," I say, managing a slight smile.

"I'm not John, Mrs. Romano."

"I know, I know," I answer, mechanically biting into the cardboard passing as white bread.

"It's cold in here," he mutters in exasperation, checking the old gun-metal radiator for some sign of heat. "Did you forget to pay your gas bill?"

"My husband pays the bills," I answer, pulling the afghan up to my chin.

"Mrs .Romano, your husband's been dead a month now.

"Don't look at me like that. I know you remember."

His words thrust stabbing pain into the pit of my stomach. John and I were married nearly forty years, years of oneness and intertwined love. He was my stability in an unstable world. We raised one son, our finest achievement, only to lose him from a tainted blood transfusion. How ironic of God to spare his life after being struck by a car, only to take it in an twist of fate.

John followed him a year later, never recovering from his sorrow. Only our grandson, Jonathan, carries on the legacy of those I loved.

I need to be with John, to replenish the part of me that is missing. I cannot exist in an empty world lighted only by the trusting smile of a four-year-old boy. A boy whose face reflects my loss, a face I can no longer bear to look upon.

My heart is a century cactus, its outside barbed and safe, the inside soft, vulnerable to the mockery of death. Somewhere beneath the layers of grief, anger lies ready to lash out. John had no right to leave me alone, denying the focus of my existence. It isn't fair.

"You'll have heat in a few minutes," the man said, snapping me back to the present. "The thermostat was set too low. Will you be all right now?"

"Of course, dear, I'm always all right when you're near me."

He shakes his head somberly and walks down the stairway to the front door, locking it behind him. My husband is such a thoughtful man.

My mind tries again to embrace the limbo that holds insanity at bay, that shuts down the mind. If only the noise would stay away, I might empty my soul of the anguish of consciousness.

The telephone rings until I can no longer ignore it, another intrusion keeping me from the vacancy of eternal slumber. Jonathan's mother asks me how I am doing. She means my mental health, but cannot say it. I leave her to her speculations. I know too well that I am sane. It is the sanity that is unbearable. We have little to say to one another. The common threads of our life lie buried in parallel graves in a cemetery not three blocks from my home.It is not a place I choose to visit, for my loves are not there, only the shells that housed their splendor.

She wants to bring Jonathan to visit. "Not yet," I say. I do not tell her the pain still pulses like an open wound. Jonathan will survive. He will learn to call another man, father, and the memory of the lean, white-haired grandfather that he called 'Pa' will slip from his young mind like the tenuous leaves of autumn.

"He cries for you," she tells me. I harden my heart and block the picture of the cherubic reminder of better days. The howls seem more intense today.The intervals of numbing silence grow less frequent. The hellish racket, demanding in tone, reverberates throughout the house, vibrating within my body, lodging in my mind. Whatever hideous entity capable of such ungodly cries now hurls itself against my door. Again and Again.I can bear no more.

The sun has slipped below the horizon and the room grows dim in anticipation of nightfall. I rise slowly to confront this relentless intrusion, this formidable being that prevents me from embracing the timelessness of grief.

Another screech sends me reeling back to my chair. This thing will not let me go. Desperation lifts me to my feet.

I take one step down the narrow staircase and nearly fall. The railing braces my frail weight. My legs tremble, my heart rapidly beats what must be its final serenade. Hands, gnarled from arthritis and shaky from a touch of palsy, dance like mimes along the banister. The dizziness in my head settles into a persistent fog as I try another step. And another. Some time later, I find myself on the landing facing the front door.

The scratching reaches a frenzy. Something wants me, wants to come in. I almost welcome this brutal end to loneliness, the dulling sensation of being the only person alive on Earth. The next howl rocks me back against the wall. Dear God, I cannot face it. Some other hand than mine reaches for the doorknob and turns it slowly.

The door groans and opens a crack, then a little more. Something fierce and quick slinks through the door and leans against my tremulous legs. Gray fur, standing upright in indignation, relaxes as the warm body entwines about my feet, emitting soft contented mews. I don't remember owning a cat.

I follow the animal's insistent trail up the stairs toward the kitchen. It seems to know the layout of the house. My gait is slow, but there is a levity to my step, and a spark, just a spark, illuminating my heart. Tomorrow, I must call Jonathan.


  1. Hello Micki,
    Well, I do not know where you always pull these great stories together but this is another one I truly enjoyed. Each one seems better than the last and I do not think I will ever tire of your amazing style written with so much compassion
    Thank you for sharing and this one definitely belongs in your collection.

  2. Thanks Rosemary, It was written soon after Noelle was killed and it is reflecting my own deep grief.

    Love, Micki

  3. So well written. A friend of mine lost his wife this week, and though not nearby, I can see his pain through your words.

  4. So beautiful, so poignant--you are such a gifted writer!

  5. Oh Micki - You're so talented!!!

  6. Beautiful writing. You've done a great job of using the senses in these scenes--the sounds of scratching and yowling, the feel of cold, the cardboard taste of bread, and all the visuals. I felt like I was there!

  7. Ah Micki, you had me at the title: Out of Nothing. Could feel the despair; the decision and then, the breath of fresh air. Poignant, fresh and deeply moving, my friend. Keep writing.

  8. Thanks Terry, and welcome to my blog. I lost my teenaged daughter and writing was my only outlet for grief. Many of my stories, such as this one, reflect this, but I write much more slice of life hummor about my family. I hope you'll come back to read more.


  9. Thanks, Raani, sandy N. and Dody,
    This was written shortly after Noelle was killed and reflects my own emotions of grief. writingis the only way I can express deep emotion.

    Love you guys!


  10. Hi MIcki,
    This is a beautiful story of hope for a woman who has lost all that meant something to her. I read it and could feel her detachment from the world. I saw her making her peace as she died within herself.
    The appearance of the cat was brought in nicely signalling that her life would continue. The woman had found someone to care for. Animals can play a big part in our lives, if we will let them. This cat gave the woman back her hope and her will to live.
    The story was touching and it made me think of others who go through lost.

  11. Pat, you are very astute. This was written shortly after my Noelle was killed and it reflects my own deep grief on many levels, Writing was/is my only outlet for grief.


  12. Micki this was so touching, I don't know if I intrepted right but my cats warm my heart everyday and are there when I'm sad and show so much pride that it's hard not to be contagious. Thank you for such a lovely story.

  13. Wow, Mick, what emotion! I really enjoyed reading this, I sat here hanging on to every word. Good job! I'm loving the things you write! Please don't stop!

  14. Lori and Deidre,
    I'm glad you liked it--it reflects my own deep grief over losing Noelle, written shortly after she was killed whichis why the emotionis so raw and real.