Iowa Writes

DOUGLAS TREVOR
From "Fellowship of the Bereaved"


Jared drove home cautiously, through the familiar streets of his childhood. He didn't have a car in Boston and figured he hadn't driven in the snow since high school. He checked his watch. It was barely eleven o'clock.
      Having someone in your family die prematurely ushered you into the fellowship of the bereaved, Jared thought. People who had not similarly suffered stayed away from this fellowship as best they could because they didn't know what to say to a person grieving. But in fact, the horrible truth was that the people within this fellowship didn't know what to say to one another either; each mourner was consumed by his or her own grief, so the group of sufferers that wandered through the social world like emotional lepers wasn't a group at all; it was just made up of crippled people, none of whom could help anyone else.
      After Ann died, Jared filled his apartment in Boston with plants: ficuses, ferns, hoyas, bromeliads, and other houseplants that he couldn't even identify. He bought the plants at Bread and Circus, the upscale grocery store two blocks from his apartment, and carried them back one at a time. He didn't know how to care for plants and systematically over-watered every one of them but that didn't stop him; he kept on buying them, stubbornly waiting for the little greenery they provided to make him feel better.

Jared drove home cautiously, through the familiar streets of his childhood. He didn't have a car in Boston and figured he hadn't driven in the snow since high school. He checked his watch. It was barely eleven o'clock.
      Having someone in your family die prematurely ushered you into the fellowship of the bereaved, Jared thought. People who had not similarly suffered stayed away from this fellowship as best they could because they didn't know what to say to a person grieving. But in fact, the horrible truth was that the people within this fellowship didn't know what to say to one another either; each mourner was consumed by his or her own grief, so the group of sufferers that wandered through the social world like emotional lepers wasn't a group at all; it was just made up of crippled people, none of whom could help anyone else.
      After Ann died, Jared filled his apartment in Boston with plants: ficuses, ferns, hoyas, bromeliads, and other houseplants that he couldn't even identify. He bought the plants at Bread and Circus, the upscale grocery store two blocks from his apartment, and carried them back one at a time. He didn't know how to care for plants and systematically over-watered every one of them but that didn't stop him; he kept on buying them, stubbornly waiting for the little greenery they provided to make him feel better.
      After Ann died, Jared also began to stockpile nonperishables: detergent, trash bags, canned foods. He had never cared for beans but he bought dozens of different kinds. He filled the once empty cupboards of his kitchen with boxes of coffee filters, family sized packs of paper towels, liters of olive oil. He didn't know what he was doing. He wasn't aware that he was afraid to go outside, where people died.
      He became accident phobic. He worried about slipping in the shower, or electrocuting himself somehow—by mishandling the coffee maker, for example, or the toaster. At the same time he felt so cautious and paranoid, he also wanted to die, or at least he thought he did, so he came up with complicated suicide plans, like the one involving his laundry bag and a first edition of Biathanatos that he had mentioned to Dave earlier in the evening.
        Stopped at a light, Jared watched a man carefully cross in front of him, balancing a pie tin in his arms. Living, breathing, keeping our hearts beating, our fingernails growing: we'll do anything to stay alive, Jared thought. We'll say goodbye to our favorite people and go on with our mundane routines because we want so fiercely to fill our lungs with air. In the face of death, we become greedy for life: selfish and hoarding. When he considered how tightly he had held on since Ann died he was filled with self-disgust and considered for a moment steering his father's car sharply to the right, into a storefront on Downing Street. But I'll never do that, he said to himself, and that's pathetic. To hold onto life like this . . . it isn't right. I should be dead. I want to be dead, but I'm too weak to do anything about it.
      His eyes filled with tears. At the corner of Seventh Avenue, just a few blocks from home, he thought of the time—during a snowstorm—when Ann had taken him out in the old Buick and they had done donuts in the Safeway parking lot. It was unlike her to be so reckless, but it was like her too, to be silly and fun. I'll never be able to describe her to people who didn't know her, he realized. To them, she will never seem real. To them, she will always be my dead sister.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


DOUGLAS TREVOR

Douglas Trevor is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Iowa. His fiction has been anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005 and The O. Henry Prize Stories 2006. "Fellowship of the Bereaved" is the final story in The Thin Tear of the Fabric of Space (University of Iowa Press, 2005).

Established in 1969 and housed in the historic Kuhl House, the oldest house still standing in Iowa City, the University of Iowa Press publishes scholarly books and a range of titles for general readers. As the only university press in the state, it is dedicated in part to preserving the literature, history, culture, wildlife, and natural areas of the region.

University of Iowa Press

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on November 07, 2006

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