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The Death Notice

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Stu placed the loaf of bread into the cupboard and glanced out the window. Closing his eyes for a second, his mind filled with the images of a tall dark-haired man. The way his lips felt against his own as they sat in the tiniest closet, hiding from everybody. The way tingles would spread up and down his spine, eventually setting his chest on fire. Then the memories from their last meeting cloud his mind and his eyes snap open. He put the rest of his groceries away, but he could still see Mitch. He could still see him sitting there, moments before he was going to tell him that they’d never be together. Stu hated that that was his last memory of him, but there was nothing he could do about it. No matter how much he tried to tear the memory of that moment from his brain, he couldn’t. He simply couldn’t. As an attempt to distract himself, he grabbed the newspaper. His eyes scanned over the various articles, not absorbing the slightest bit of information. Foreign Affairs. Sports. Mass Shooting.

Death Notices. Mitch. 1919-1962.

No. It wasn’t that Mitch. It couldn’t be. Stu forced himself to look at the small blurry, black and white picture next to the small paragraphs. It was his eyes, nose, lips, his everything. It was him. Stu felt nauseous. He closed the newspaper and stood up. His chest was aflame but it was unlike how he felt when he had been with Mitch. This time, he felt as if he was becoming consumed by the fire. His entire life was being taken by the fire as it spread across his body. He touched the paper, almost expecting it to burst into flames as well. He flipped back to the page with the, notice. He read it over and felt the fire lessen. The words were no doubt written by his wife. His wife! This couldn’t be true. He grabbed the leather bound book next to the telephone and searched for her name. She picked up after the fifth ring.

“Hi, Becky. It’s Stu,” he said.

“Oh, hi Stu,” Becky said, her voice rough. Probably from crying. “We haven’t heard from you in forever.”

“I saw the notice. Is it,” he paused, swallowing a lump in his throat, “is it true?”

There was a moment of silence, before she forced out a quiet “Yes.”

“A heart attack?” He asked. He never thought Mitch would have a heart attack; it was so unlike him.

Becky laughed mirthlessly. “That’s the official cause of death. Everybody who knows him knows it was the alcohol.” Stu nodded, even though she couldn’t see him. “Okay. Well, I better get going,” Becky said.

“Sure. Thank you for telling me the truth,” Stu said, thankful this conversation was seconds away from over.

“No problem, Stu. Take care of yourself.”

He left the phone and paper behind and ran into his bedroom. His mind was blank as his hands riffled through his closet until he found a box. There was more riffling until he found the journal. Flipping to his last entry, he read it over. Then he grabbed a pen and wrote in faint handwriting in the margin,

Mitch died today. May 12, 1962. Age 43. Official Cause of Death: Heart Attack. But even Becky says it was the alcohol. Guess the war’s finally over.

He laughed slightly, causing the tears in his eyes to spill over. “I’ll miss you,” he said to nobody.