An Excerpt from the Short Story “Dis”
By Margo Lerwill
For the second time in one night, I stood out in the open talking to thin air. A glance along the length of the darkened residential street found it deserted, but I still felt myself wearing that pinched-lipped frown that friends always said made me look sour. “If someone sees me, they’re going to think I’m crazy.”
“Hey, lady, you paying attention to this or what?”
I turned back toward the art deco house, stained with the grime of dirty air and foul weather and faded from pink to unbleached bone. Was the sharp tongue on Pa Xiong a dead thing or a teenager thing, I wondered. Already I couldn’t stand her. Her ghost stood, so to speak, just left of the front door to the Xiong home with her feet in her aunt’s flowerbed. Good thing Pa was already dead.
I swallowed the listen-here-Miss-Thing voice pushing its way up my throat, but failed to prevent the eyebrow arch. “I wouldn’t have gone all the way out to the cemetery and summoned you in the middle of the night if this wasn’t important,
She snickered and tossed her black hair. The attitude, paired with the retro, pink Rainbow Brite t-shirt she’d been wearing the night of her death, struck me as a tad ludicrous.
“So why have I been standing out here all night waiting?” she asked.
“Thirty minutes. It takes thirty minutes to drive here from
.” With my lead foot. “Not everyone can just manifest wherever they want. And you might stop acting like I’m the only one getting anything out of this. You help me, and I see to it that Zaj makes amends.” Ashborne Cemetery
The delicate bow of Pa’s lips curved into a severe frown. I hadn’t realized before how much she looked like a bitter version of her cousin Kaying. Then again, Kay still had that certain glow that came with being alive.
“What the hell do I care about amends?” Pa asked. The teen drama queen gestures subsided, and she peered hard at me. “You haven’t promised to avenge my death.”
“I want that promise. I do this for you, and you kill Zaj for getting me shot.”
Four years after her death, her anger still hadn’t softened. Four years to consider how flirting with the gang lifestyle of the Asian Kings had put her in that car that night on that freeway exchanging gunfire with a car full of DPGs, Dog Pound Gang members. Four years, and the best she could do was blame Kay’s brother, Zaj, for ducking the bullet that subsequently hit her.
I bit down on what I really wanted to say and breathed through my rising frustration. “I need Zaj right now.”
“Yeah, lady? I need him dead.”
“I told you, my name is Colbie.”
“This soul can’t move on until he’s in the ground, bitch.”
According to traditional Hmong religion, each person had more than one soul. Kay had taught me that. Being what I was, however, I also knew the soul standing before me could have gone on at any point after Pa’s death. She didn’t want to leave this world. I considered telling her I could make her go, if I wanted to. Being called a bitch made me want to.