Amy Scharmann received an MFA in fiction from the University of Florida. Her work has appeared in the Flash Fridays series at Tin House, New Orleans Review, Passages North, [PANK], SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. She tweets @amyscharmann.
My mother has come back from the dead. She enters the backdoor of my house without knocking. My heart kicks my ribs like it did when she died.
During her final minutes, her mouth opened wider and wider until her pulse quit and her muscles turned to stone. The nurse said, “She’s gone.” But I couldn’t imagine that. My mother would still need things—a space heater to keep her warm at night, someone to bring her purse when she asks so she can hug it and all of its useless contents, a bath each morning. I leaned over her dead body, looked into her mouth, at her throat, at her stiff and awful tongue. I don’t know what I thought I’d find, but I didn’t do myself any favors studying the dry and empty darkness she’d left behind—I knew her needs had been transferred somewhere else.
I get out of bed to find my mother at the kitchen table. Heaven has aged her. She smiles at me, keeping her mouth closed.
“I miss you,” I say. “What do you need? Anything? Water?”
My mother opens her mouth the same width it was when she died. I look inside. This time, a glow pulses in the back of her throat, and I realize that a hand is behind the light, moving. Something is still fighting to keep her alive.
I feel my heart in my throat—it’s unsure how quickly to beat.