by John Rowlands
The rough wooden cross sat tilted, shoved to one side by the winds from the constant stream of cars on State Highway 81.
Jenny straightened the cross. Most of the flowers she’d put at its base two weeks ago had blown away, so she replaced them with the new plastic ones she'd bought yesterday at Wal-Mart. They looked just like the other real flowers. Next she rearranged the jeweled necklace lying next to the cross. She knew her memories of that one night with too much beer, a car and a tree would never die.
Highway 81 was dotted with these homemade crosses at random intervals. For Jenny, this particular cross was a gathering place for ghosts. They clung to the windswept gravel and encircled the gnarled oak. She felt them so strongly. She knelt and sobbed. “I’m so sorry, Katie.” As she cried, she felt them come nearer.
She held one final flower in her hand, a blood-red rose, the thick stem studded with thorns and its end sharpened to a point. She knew now she’d made the right decision.
She swallowed hard, then with eyes wide open staring at the cross, she plunged the pointed, plastic stem of the rose into her neck. Blood spurted as it punctured the artery.
She mumbled a prayer as her life stained the grass around the cross. Removing her necklace, she laid it next to the jeweled one. “Katie, I won't leave you alone” she vowed. “Soon, I will be with you.”
(John Rowlands is the pretentious literary persona of a real person, occupying the ever brief moments that lie between his many faces as adventurer, traveler, scholar, conservationist, and wage slave, while providing an excuse to refer to himself in the third person. He currently resides in Virginia and is collaborating with Dr. Hannibal Lecter on a cookbook.)