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Uschi, Banished by Andrew Stancek

He banished her memory forever.  “I have to move on, Uschi.  Everyone says so.  You’re dead.  I’m going to get married.  You have to get out of my life.” He spoke to her in that reasonable tone more and more over the four hundred and thirty-seven days since she died.

He waved his arms to and fro, burnt sandalwood incense and carried it from corner to corner.  He inhaled until his lungs were about to burst and with the slow exhale sent every particle of her out of his body.  “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee,” he chanted.

She laughed when she danced in, burgundy dress clinging to her hips, the next day.  “You’re a foolish boy, Don, and a dilettante.  You think it’s that easy?  Like a sliver, poke it out with a needle, all better?   You don’t do your research.  That incense bit, was that supposed to be — smudging?  And divorcing incantations?  Mixing our traditions a bit, are we?  Grow up, Don.  I’m with you forever.”

“I won’t talk to you, won’t think of you.  You’re just a figment.  And if I don’t indulge you, you will dissipate, like a wisp of smoke.  You’re nothing.  Less than nothing.”

Her mirth tinkled like an out-of-tune piano.  “Keep telling yourself that, Don.  Go ahead.  Don’t think of me, I dare you.”

When he rang the bell at the priest’s house, Uschi chortled so hard she had hiccups and when the door opened, Don thrust a twenty at a startled housekeeper, mumbled donation and beat a hasty retreat.  Uschi helped him turn the pages of his college address book to find the number of the shrink he used to see, but of course Doctor Sieben was no longer listed.  She nodded as they watched videos of exorcisms but agreed when Don muttered he was certain to get a charlatan.

He stopped sleeping, started losing weight. Every time he closed his eyes, he only saw her –waltzing in his arms, telling a joke, winking. Her eyes shone.  She waved, turned somersaults.

He knew if he breathed one word of it to Lauren, the bride-to-be, the engagement would be over.  Lauren did not make a habit of laughing, of engaging in frivolity.  He wasn’t sure if she had eyes hiding under the heavy tortoise-shell glasses but he knew they did not shine.  He was positive that she had not turned somersaults even when she was six.

Running along the bridge with him, Uschi shouted hut-two-three-four, hut-two-three-four, and whee as they jumped over the railing.  He went straight down, deep into the waves, in Uschi’s embrace.  Forever, she whispered. They laughed together.

Andrew Stancek’s work has appeared in Flash Fiction Chronicles, Connotation Press, The Linnet’s Wings, Pure Slush, Prime Number Magazine, Istanbul Literary Magazine and many others.