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Kevin McIlvoy

Kevin McIlvoy

Kevin McIlvoy lives in Asheville, North Carolina where he edits books and offers writing mentoring through his website, His most recent book is a short story collection, The Complete History of New Mexico (Graywolf Press). "The Story of Their 67th" is from a new unpublished collection, 57 Octaves Below Middle C.

The Story Of Their 67th

"Oh, it was—it was—am I right?—it was like you were at you were at you were in really in a movie—a big show a parade a fair a. Something." My mother touched flowers that were no longer around her neck.

"It was," Dad said. "It was like a —"

"—holiday or. Something." They were not there, the sweet-smelling garlands, but she touched them in a certain way, as if showing them to herself in that moment inside her when she and our Dad had gone on their anniversary cruise to Hawaii. They had planned it for at least twenty years. "Right off the plane—that fast—we got lei'd. I got lei'd in baggage—too hard to tell about—difficult difficult to describe—we kinda you kinda—bend—o-ver —"

"—bow —" Dad didn't seem to hear us all (except for the really oldest of the five of us, sixty-two now) snickering.

"—when they do you."

I used to be the teller of the family stories, before I destroyed my marriage to a person more worthy of my family's love than I. I have not forgotten the stories, not a single one, and they matter to me as much as ever. To the end of their lives, my parents were good people. They are not to blame that I am a man causing despair and shame in those who loved me.

She said, "It shakes you is what it does and you're not supposed to not allowed to it's you can't throw them away because it's –"

"—disrespectful –"

"—you're—you—what you do is when you get home you 'Return them to the earth.'"

"That's what they say."

"You put them back." She stretched out her legs. "You return them." She had on culottes. It's worth mentioning because she liked them. He liked them on her, and would say it within our hearing. Sitting close on the couch, he stretched his legs out next to hers, and you could make a fair guess they were once again sunk in deck chairs, they were becalmed under The Elinor Wilner * Sovereign Class bill caps issued to them, their exotic drinks and the sea-silence pleasing them.

She said, "They're a big people they're not a tall. People. Are they?"

"Nope. They're big around. Solid as salt licks."

Our parents could dance. In everything they did, they could find a common measure. Though her rhythm was always more broken than his, he could firmly guide and turn them. He could lead.

"You—you. It's like a—'salt licks'—really?—they're...what they're doing is piling on heaping on flowers and flowers—they're flowering you—are they?—how would you put it?—are they flowering you?—it's another world there and they put you really gently it's gentle it's gentle how they put you in it—it's an Island Life."

"Yeah. Yeah. You're somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, all right."

"It's something—every time it happens—it's—his was different than mine—mine—mine was all different in how it smelled how where how it—in the morning and at night—everything on you everything

around you—it was fragrant. God. Fragrant like you just can't..."

"They come for you," he said.

Growing up and still feeling close, feeling together as a family, my sister and brothers and I had seen this at least ten-thousand strange times: they were near enough for him to touch the back of his fingers against the base of her throat, for her to vine her fingers in his hands.

"At the hotel lobby," he said. "They come right for you with those garlands. In the morning. The van. The restaurant. The pool. At night."

"Mmmmmmhm—mmmhmm," she said.

"With torches," he said.


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