On Rotation: A Hundred-Dollar Bill and Old Tissues

On rotations—at the medical examiner.


An eighteen-wheeler was in front. The roads weren’t particularly slick with rain. The eighteen-wheeler wasn’t driving erratically. Mister was following too close. Was his mind occupied with grief because he had just left his old friend’s funeral? Behind his dusty eyeglasses, three years over due for new lenses, were his eyes wet with tears?

Their lives extinguished instantly. Or did they want death to start together? The eighteen-wheeler was behind a slow car or saw road kill and he needed to break. Mister was not quick enough. Mister was following too close. Missus did not think anything of it. Majority would see it as an accident; he was not quick enough to break. But a sliver of doubt can cross one’s mind. It could have been a split second decision—seeing his friend in that coffin, seeing the love of his life next to him, seeing his destiny quickly end.

He was still tall, but quite thin. He wore his blue plaid long-sleeve shirt that he had been wearing all week. Fresh underwear and a white t-shirt underneath. He put on his brown polyester pants. What grey hair he had, he parted and tucked into his baseball cap. He slid his belt around his waist and fastened it with a brass belt buckle of a man riding a horse. He slipped his black socks and leather shoes onto his narrow ankles and feet. He slurped his upper dentures into his mouth. He grabbed his wallet, purchased twenty or thirty years ago, felt that smooth leather, and placed it deep into his right back pocket.

She was short, slight, with a little bit of weight in her midsection. She had her hair fixed the day before, white with tall puffy curls. She put on her fake pearl earrings. She had to wear her gold diamond ring. She had on a white blouse with a lace collar that buttoned down the front. She wore her light blue denim skirt, knee-high panty hose and white leather shoes. She didn’t wear lipstick anymore and she didn’t wear her glasses. She clutched a navy faux-leather envelope purse with gold accents.

This is romance. They had been married and together longer than apart. Both of them were eighty-four. Between them, 168 years. He was a few months older than she. They had history together, unknown to all but them. Words they didn’t need to say bonded them in time. Their relationship, either good and tumultuous or bad and delightful was theirs together and alone. Together they went to the funeral. She held his hand. She had not seen him cry in many years.

That wallet had everything. His driver’s license with a picture that looked like it was from when he was forty-five. His voter registration card from when he was thirty or so frayed around the edges. Business cards from the local feed store, the butcher store, the tow truck driver, the mechanic, his son-in-law and his accountant. He had hand written notes with phone numbers, names, and addresses of people of importance. He had a five-dollar bill and a one-dollar bill in the main pocket of his billfold, but tucked away deep inside was an inner pocket of an inner pocket, folded in half and then halved again, a brand new hundred-dollar bill. It was hidden, maybe even from Missus.

The purse she held had everything. Her checkbook doubled as her wallet. She had a photo album insert in her checkbook, with photos of her kids, grandkids, nephews, nieces, babies, toddlers, Christmases, vacations. She had a separate coin purse with not many coins. Dozens of coupons of clippings, half expired. There was a hairbrush sprinkled with white hair. Lipstick that was worn only a few times. And tucked inside a zippered pocket were four or five loose tissues folded neatly together, just in case. Next to those, two balled up used tissues. Had she used them at the funeral? Had she offered Mister one?

Together they screamed or let out a shout in the car. “Oh my God!” “Oh no!” Perhaps they looked at each other as their heads struck the dashboard or the windshield. He hit his head at the bridge of his nose, but on impact it crushed more of his skull than appeared. His glasses were still on, but a little crooked. He had glass debris on his face and shoulders. She braced herself in her seat. Her brittle bones snapped at the ankles, knees, but her white shoes stayed on. The force of impact would carry up her legs and break her hips. Her head must have hit two places on impact, her forehead was crushed and her jaw was broken. Drops of blood stained her white lace collar. The impact would rattle their brains twice. The first impact at the front of the skull. The second impact, caused by the first, would squish the brain to the back of the skull. The vessels inside would bleed furiously, suffocating their brains to the point of no return. Together they had been for years, and together they were gone.

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