“Guilt and Matter”

The man cries then vomits. It starts with a foamy leak down his T-shirt, followed by a stream of color and guts. He is embarrassed. This is a good thing, I think.

Still, I suspect this may be an act rehearsed for the moment. He has been making the rounds, apologizing to my family members. I light a cigarette and offer him one, so he can say what he came here to say and get it over with.

We are sitting on my porch in Tampa. This is summer. It is too hot for this.

“I killed her,” he says, “but I don’t feel like a murderer.”

His breaths become quicker, shorter.

“If you’re a Catholic you can ask someone for forgiveness,” I say. “Otherwise, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s not my job to absolve you.”

He is a bald man, much older than I am, with a bulbous stomach barely covered by a God is Good T-shirt. I wonder if he wears this shirt often. Maybe he was when he hadn’t looked left, when he pulled out onto a clay road, when he forced my cousin’s car into a cement culvert. Dead when her neck snapped.

The man hadn’t looked left.

With his bare hand, the man tries to wipe a chunk of something off his chest. As he talks I don’t listen because I don’t care what he says. His words will never matter.

Instead I think of the cruel dice game of the Fates: my cousin driving home from her weekend-long college orientation. She was probably happy, maybe a little hung-over, eager. And it was her birthday. Eighteen years.

She spent only a part of one day as an adult, and now her casket rests high in an above-ground mausoleum, stacked on top of other enclosed bones—a giant filing cabinet waiting for a spiteful God to one day open and finger through.

“She’s in a better place,” I hear the man say. “I just know she is.”

But the man can’t know this, of course. The best he can do is believe. This is the word the man should have chosen.

For now though, at least in this moment, I feel there is likely no better place than here, each of us confined to one individual circumstance at a time, all riding out our small segments of chronology until a crash comes for us, too.

I worry that this is it for us, as it was for my cousin, and that she in her dust-bin afterlife will never again get to feel joy, shame, or whatever it is her accidental killer gets to feel, right now, as he repents.

Still, I believe the man didn’t mean it to happen.

He is innocent.

I get him a rag to clean his mess.

Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
The Story Behind the Story Featured Fiction New Fiction Essays/Articles (all) Developing a Writing Life
Sort by

The Story Behind the Story: “Re: Guilt”

In this segment of The Story Behind the Story, Eric Laster talks about what motivated him to write “
2014-11-03 06:25:29
laster

18

“Re: Guilt”

We’d just been served our food when it happened, the Camry or whatever crashing t
2014-07-31 11:45:09
laster

10

“My Apologies”

I will start by saying that I do not have to explain myself to you.  Then I will go
2019-04-12 07:58:47
evadunsky

8

“The Gathering Before the Storm”

Against her better judgment, Gladys takes a moment to notice that the sky looks deceptively banal through the
2019-03-04 11:51:03
maryfifield

8

“Writing and the Unconscious: A Personal Exploration of Process and Content”

If dreams are the royal road to the unconscious mind as proposed by Freud, then what are the stories that we write?
2018-12-28 19:34:37
stephanieh

8

“I Denigrate Myself”

I will start by saying that I do not have to explain myself to you.  Then I will go
2018-12-12 20:12:52
evadunsky

8

“Symptoms and Remedies”

I try to interpret the signs of my own body, and think back to a medieval literature class I took in which we
2018-11-12 11:27:27
emilylivingstone

8

“Rush Hour”

We’ve waited, three full metro trains come and gone. When doors open on the fourth, we’ve regressed, become pr
2018-10-08 10:57:49
meghanlmcnamara

8

“Maternal Instinct”

Mostly I remember fragments. Flashes. The feel of my right shoe slipping, losing my foothold, my spine arching, then
2018-09-22 19:33:54
garnficse

8

“Summer Writing in a Tourist Town”

All my life I’ve lived in tourist towns or cities. Perhaps that is a positive
2018-09-07 12:54:52
macnostic

8

About Daniel Sutter

Daniel Sutter is currently an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of New Orleans where he teaches and also reads for Bayou Magazine. He is from Tampa, Florida.