I. Marley

Marley was dead.

Not dead as doornails or coffin-nails, though it made little difference. Her boxes had been closed with long brown stripes of packing tape, her velvet sofa and zebra-gaudy beanbags loaded into the back of a We Haul It van, her dishes stacked in glistening bubble wrap, her shower caddy plucked from its customary nest between the haphazard shampoo bottles and crumbling soap bars in the mildewed shower.

She had even removed the drooping aloe from the windowsill, where its stalks hung brown and useless like the legs of a dead spider. How you could kill such a hardy desert plant, Ebenezer could not have said; but it must have taken diligence, time, concerted effort.

The metaphor and its attendant irony were not lost upon her.

Marley was dead, and the snow was falling down like static. Ebenezer watched it from a bed warmed only by a lap top. The ancient radiator hummed uncertainly; a pipe banged somewhere deep within the chipping walls like an aneurism. Her index finger had left a pool of oil upon the touch pad. No call, no email, no text message, no whisper and no tweet. A month, the calendar insisted, each black x a little tombstone. A month, and Ebenezer sat, staring at the dust in which the sofa’s outlines vanished a little more every time she looked. How did one measure time, she wondered? In seconds or the dark spaces between them? In the hours that tumbled past like snowflakes? The clock ticked steady with the ice storm’s pattern. Ebenezer glanced over at its nook. Seven-thirty. Seven days exactly. It could well have been seven years.

Marley was dead—to her, anyway.

The alarm shrieked through the silence, assuming once again that she had gone to bed. Ebenezer sighed and hit it.

Christmas Eve morning.

What did she have to show for it?

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