Rune County Coroner’s Office Autopsy Report, Case #3
Date of autopsy: 4.23.22
Location of autopsy: the ATM where our narrator stops to cash a check and briefly thinks about how exhausting it is to invest in something
Name of deceased: Carter Clark
Length: 5’ 11’’
Weight: 176 pounds
Recorded time of death: 4:53 p.m. — 4.22.22
Marks and wounds: 1) swollen, infected ear canals clogged with fragments of cloth and plastic (vestiges of headphones?) 2) cloudy film over both eyes, leaking blue fluid 3) split cranium with portion of frontal lobe missing
Probable cause of death: willing unawareness
Manner of death: suicide
The Rune Reporter “Remembering:” section, page C2:
[Carter Clark], , regrettably passed away [from our narrator’s life] on [Friday, April, 22, 2022] in [Unimportant, USA]. [He] is survived by [a notebook with more doodles than words] and [our narrator’s new desire to never sit outside again]. Funeral services will be performed by [a crying session our narrator tries to avoid] on[the floor of our narrator’s bathroom] on [Sunday, April 24, 2022] at [4:18 pm]. No one will be in attendance.
Parting words for Carter that, at the very least, our narrator needed to write:
We began the same way we ended.
At a table.
I was there first, pushing my pencil across the pages of my notebook, scratching over phrases that ought to be reworded. You strolled by, and the way you glanced at me from the corner of your eye, the way I glanced at you over the brim of my sunglasses, told us both to stop. Introduce ourselves and say, “You were at So-and-So’s something or other too, right? I thought I recognized you.”
You sat with me, and your movement mirrored mine. You slid out sunglasses from your shirt pocket, withdrew a notebook from the sleeve of your bookbag. You wrote along with me, and within my mind a symphony swelled of daydreams and desires. The hope blared so loudly in my ears that I wondered if what I was hearing might be the soundtrack of my own coming-of-age film, and perhaps it was my cue to climb onto the table, kick away our notebooks, pull you up with me, and spin around circles because for the first time in a long time, I had someone to sit with.
But then I had to use the restroom.
I recall it now, the irony of my thoughts. Scrubbing soap over my hands, flushing from the heat of the hand dryer, musing on how deliciously cinematic it would be if I walked back outside to an empty table. Of course, I didn’t want that to happen. But it did. You left me. You performed a little disappearing trick but forgot to return for your applause.
You told me sometime later that you were called away by someone. That it wasn’t intentional. That if you’d had my number, you would’ve let me know you were leaving.
But you did have my number. You’d gotten it from So-and-So at the something or other.
We ended the same way we began.
At a table.
I was there first, pushing at the keypad of my laptop, typing up what I was writing the first time we met. You passed by, and the way you glanced at me from around the corner, the way I glanced at you over the edge of my screen, told us both to try this one more time. We sat together in silence, working on our own separate adventures, and again the symphony of daydreams and desires clanged in my eardrums. But the notes were sour. They didn’t trust their conductor.
I left for the restroom, hoping the obnoxious whir of the hand dryer would overpower the dissonant chords of a disappointed brass section. The walk back to the table was slow, aching with dread and dragging feet. I, your reluctant audience member, expected a repeat performance of your disappearing trick.
But you were there. You were there right where I left you, and for an incredible five minutes, the music that blared in my head was euphorically harmonic again, and the conductor was spinning around in circles because for the first time in a long time, she had someone to sit with.
Then the symphony ran out of sheet music.
I would steal peeks over the edge of my screen just to see that you weren’t doing the same. Your movement no longer mirrored mine, and it became clear that it never had. You were focused on writing your own separate adventure, and the silence in my ears whispered that I was never going to be invited to come along.
A half-hour passed. This time, you were the one who went to the restroom.
And this time, I was the one who left.
I can do the disappearing trick too.
Johanna Ziegler is earning her B.A. in creative writing with minors in social media marketing and film studies at the University of South Dakota. She serves as the assistant editor for Hey! Young Writer and is a contributing writer for MJ Canyon Productions, with her latest short film “Church!” set to release summer 2023. She has been previously published in The Albion Review and Northern Eclecta, and her short film, “Places That Are Mine,” recently made official selection at the Valkyrie International Film Festival. Her hobbies include curating oddly-specific Spotify playlists and collecting Barbie memorabilia. Follow her on Instagram: @johcecilia22.