A Season in Hell XII

by Elizabeth Kirschner

3:44. I can tell time. I have been able to tell time for a long, long time. Time will tell, they say, time will tell—just what? I want to know just what. Will it tell me I am just a passing phenomenon? That I’m suffering from deeds done in a past life? And that’s exactly where I want to be now—in a passed life, passed right through life and out of life as though I were a transparency, my words hardly an outline. Black reflections and dead low tide. Empty Redemption.

I was shocked when I first saw that sign on a highway here in Maine. Empty Redemption. That’s where you redeem empty wine bottles for fifteen cents and O Good Lord have I gone through a lot of wine bottles since moving to Kittery Point. I’d be rich if I had redeemed all those bottles as only the wine quiets my unquiet mind, the one riveted with nails.

Black reflections, empty redemption and me about to go down to the sea. I will walk with eyes half-closed as though I were a humble novice about to take holy orders, but really my eyes are half-closed from all the crying. I will go walk the walk, talk the talk, say hi and yes I’m fine and tell no one about the black sack and the nails because what would they think? How can I write about all the body parts—an arm here, a leg there—or of things put in and out of my holes—a bullet, a poker—especially in my stink hole because only bad girls have stink holes. And only bad women who are in a bad way get choked, then put in a body sack. And because I am a bad woman in a bad way, I’ll drink wine tonight, have more black reflections full of Empty Redemption.

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