Stories by Izzy Braun
On a cold, rainy day on a lonely island off the coast of Seattle, a casket was lowered into the ground. As the priest at the head was saying prayers, you could hear sniffling and stifled sobs coming from the back. The community wept for the man now buried six feet under.
The new widower in the front checked her watch; the family luncheon at the house was coming soon. She could use her nice china for once and hopefully distribute some of his clutter to the family. She had already shed her wedding ring and wore black gloves to hide her secret ghostly estrangement. No tears rolled down her old cheeks and her eyes sparkled from a good night of sleep – something she hadn’t had in a long time.
After the family said their last deceitful goodbyes and the graveyard had cleared, the old woman stood over his fresh, rotting grave. Smoke escaped her lips and a finished yet still bright red cigarette fell to the raw dirt.
“May you rest in hell.”
Back at the house on a rocky beach, glasses of red wine clinked, laughter exchanged, and rowdy conversations held as the family celebrated forgetting the memory of a pitiful, temperamental man. The woman furiously ran around the house picking up whatever of his she could find.
“Who wants this coat?”
“Does anyone need some ties? There’s a nice red one here.”
“Who likes cigars? They’re straight from Colombia.”
After grace declared, the family ate like Ceasar’s senators after his bloody body fell on the angelic white marble floor. Juicy stakes were passed and heart attack potatoes were shared. Late into the night desserts, first, second, and third helpings of black forest cake, were passed around making the guests’ happy mouths drip crimson. Energetic jazz, light from the fireplace, strong drinks of gin and whiskey, and dancing poured out the windows as the animals and trees shed tears of dew and sap. After all the guests had either left or gone to bed, the freed widow stepped out into the dark foggy night looking out onto the unknown, turbulent, mysterious bay. She had used her nice china; she got rid of his clutter; she was merry.
Reconstruction of Notre Dame:
On April 15, 2019, one of Paris’s most prominent landmarks, the Notre Dame cathedral, was nearly burned to the ground. Millions of people watched as centuries of art, architecture, and artifacts were destroyed. That night was one of the very few times that I saw my father, who is an architect and a huge art and history buff, cry. The Washington Post estimated that somewhere between 830 million and one billion dollars were donated to the reconstruction of the sacred building. This begs the question: Where is Paris in the reconstruction process, and what was salvaged?
The task of reconstruction was daunting, to say the very least. On September 18, 2021, BFM Paris reported that the internal support of the building was saved and that the walls and pillars are solid. Emmanuel Macron said that the church is on track to finish reconstruction by 2024 – just in time for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
According to the organization Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris, the restoration of the Saint Ferdinand and Notre Dame de Guadeloupe chapels – adjunct to the cathedral – were finished in August, and repairing them “gave the teams working inside Notre-Dame de Paris valuable insights on the best techniques for cleaning the paintings, stonework, and stained-glass windows in the cathedral.”
The finished Notre Dame will include all of its iconic gothic art and architecture, with some modern touches. The confessional booths will be moved to make space for more visitors, modern art by artists such as Anselm Kiefer and Louise Bourgeois will be displayed, and biblical text will be projected onto some of the walls. However, these decisions have come with some critique that the old church will lose some of its grandeur and gothic elegance.
Death is But a Small Feat:
The Mist Cleared. My name was on the Moss-Covered Gravestone. It was then that I knew I succeeded. No one would think to find me. I was alone and grateful. There was no past for me anymore, just endless opportunities. I strolled through the fog in the graveyard. I felt powerful. I had achieved “death”. I sat on a bench and an old woman in a floral shawl suddenly appeared, feeding the birds.
“Would you like some, dear?” the crone asked as if she had been there the whole time.
“I would, thank you,” I responded. I took the birdseed in my hand and the birds congregated around my feet as if I were a god.
“What is a lovely young girl such as yourself doing in a gloomy graveyard?”
“I’m just visiting an… old friend.”
“Ah, yes, loss can be hard. Takes a bit of the soul,” said the woman with a knowing glance.
“She was dying for a long time,” I responded.
“Mm. I see.” A long pause befell us. “But with death comes life and new opportunities,”
“I quite agree.” The woman gave me a discerning smile and a wink then vanished with the rolling mist. I sat there for a long time. I have the power to remain on this earth forever. I have youth and beauty forever until one day I will turn into dust…
The dreariness cleared beside me to reveal a small creature. Black with hollow eyes, seemingly without a soul. It was hunched over and skeletal. I silently offered bird seed to the small beast.
“That was the first kind thing a human has done for me,” said the creature in a low, hoarse voice as if it had been smoking for a hundred years.
“Unlike most, I take comfort in the unknown. What is your name?” I asked. He took the seed and began lightly tossing it at the birds.
“I am the demon. Asmodeus. What is yours?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“Such lack of forethought is common with Faustian bargains I suppose,”
“I take it you’ve seen a few.”
“Many. They all end in terrible demise and thus I am here to advise you.” I considered this for a moment. Most who embarked on the same deal as I had would have dismissed or even punished him for the mere suggestion of aid out of their own hubris but I must be better than the past folk. For Emile.
“What is the first mistake people make?” I asked.
“Depends on what you want.”
“I see.” We both fell silent for a long time.“What do you think my name should be?”
“Cloe. It means hope and rebirth.”