TWO SHORT SHORT STORIES
BY JENNIFER LAVOREL
From the moment their daughter disappeared, she felt the permanence of it. Twelve years old. Last seen leaving the library. Absent from dinner. Frantic calls.
Despite knowing, she pressed forward. She stopped working, her career down the drain. She hired a detective. She consulted a medium. Unable to sleep, unable to rest, she drove for hours, searching, looking at the faces of every young girl.
She exhausted their savings, then tapped into their retirement accounts. One by one, all that they had built went down the drain, went the way of her career.
During the séance, they had asked: “Where is she? Where can we find her?” “Stay to get her,” came the response, over and over again. Stay to get her. A clue without meaning.
And then her body was found in the woods near a trail where they had hiked when they were new parents, exhausted but together, sharing the joy of having brought a baby girl into the world.
Slowly, their marriage began the spiral. He stopped cooking. She stopped cleaning. Neighbors raked their leaves as he sat silently in an upstairs window. The roof leaked. She taped over broken windows.
One day he was gone, too. She felt the permanence of it. And that was all she felt.
Someone called her when he died. She went to collect his things. She found his little notebook, where he’d written thoughts and clues. “Stay to get her,” she read, but then, suddenly, she read something else: “Stay together.”
It started with a raw oyster. Not quite briny. Something a little off.
Two days later, Mike was on life support, his organs failing. “Classic Vibrio,” a doctor said.
Friends and family flew in from California, New Mexico, Switzerland. Neighbors helped with our kids, packed our freezer with meals.
My fear was constant. Every moment I faced the prospect of Mike’s death. I wasn’t working. Bills were coming. One day the doctors said, “We have done all we can do.”
“You are so strong,” people told me. “You are so brave.” “I’m terrified,” I would reply.
After 12 days, Mike woke up. His chance of survival had been 1 percent, a doctor told him. The vasopressors had done their job, keeping him alive, but restricting the blood flow to his extremities. His lower left leg was amputated first, then the right. Then his fingers.
“How is he?” people would ask. I would tell them the truth. “He beat the odds, and he knows it. He is in good spirits.” He will grow old with me.
We built ramps. After 4 months in the hospital, Mike came home. Daily life was chaotic. Equipment. Prescriptions. Nurses. Therapists. We were exhausted. In the midst of it, we adopted two foster kittens.
People were shocked.
But to us it made sense. It was an act of reclamation, a way of asserting our right to introduce chaos of our choosing. To welcome life and taunt its opposite. To be afraid and unafraid all at once.