Estranged by

Would you rather die by burning or drowning?  I think those are our basic choices these days.  Personally, I can’t understand why my sister, Marnie, would choose burning, but she says the West Coast’s lack of humidity is better for her hair.

I don’t want to burn.  I’d rather be swept away in the torrential rains of the East Coast.  Drowning seems more peaceful.  I can picture my pale body bobbing up and down in a gully wash of river brown.  I might struggle to breathe, but once I resign myself and accept my watery fate, at least I won’t be in pain.  Much better than slowly cooking to death.

Why Marnie would abandon the East Coast, I’ll never understand.  The floods and the bugs are getting worse, but tell me a place that isn’t struggling.  Besides, our family goes back generations in Ulster County.  And we’ve been growing our own food long before it was fashionable.  There was a time when Marnie took pride in that.  When she seemed to cherish milking the cows and gathering the eggs.  But as she grew older and prettier, she had no patience for a small-town farm.  She wanted less work and more money.  Lobbied for shortcuts and outsourcing: insecticides and milking machines.

Looking back, I wonder if she was always secretly embarrassed by us.  By me.  She lives to stand out. Even had the nerve to be born with blonde hair, while I got stuck with mousy brown.  I thought we’d remain close, no matter where she went, but that was before she published her novel. It was bad enough on the page but, once book became film, my ‘fictional’ life was easy access for anyone to consume.  I suppose I should give Marnie credit for recycling, but some things are better left to compost.

Now she’s living the West Coast cliché: lighting grip husband, who’s really an aging surfer, and three tan beach babies who’ve never met their aunt.  Marnie barely even stayed after Mom’s funeral.  Preferred to breeze in and out like the shifting Santa Anas.  And after my divorce, all she did was send flowers.  Seriously, what am I supposed to do with flowers in an empty house? Not to mention the life cycle impact of growing, cutting and shipping all that organic waste. Flowers I could step outside and pick myself.

Some might say we should meet in the middle – both move near our brother Luke’s house in Minnesota.  I’ve heard the lake country may fare best with climate change.   But why prolong the inevitable?  Plus, Luke is a hunter now.  Sans husband and offspring (you’re welcome Mother Earth), I imagine I’d be conscripted into being a gatherer out there.  Because isn’t that what we’re reverting back to?  The world coming to an end and we’re all just Neanderthals once more.  Struggling to survive before the harsh environment snuffs out our flame.

Yeah, it’s the Ophelia route for me.  No sense waiting to be burned again.




Coleman Bigelow’s stories have appeared recently in Flash Fiction Magazine, Every Day Fiction, The Dead Mule School, The Under Review, and Ink and Sword. He studied creative writing as an undergraduate at The University of Virginia and went on to study playwriting and screenwriting at The Actor’s Theatre of Louisville and the New School. He is at work on his first novel.



Photo by Russell Barajas –


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2 thoughts on “Estranged”

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this. Societal comment and individual problems, family comedy and drama. Factual issues woven through fictional narrative. Childhood relationships continued through the banality of middle-aged lives, magnified from the domestic to the global concern. The brevity of the piece counters the depth of the stories told. If Anne Tyler wrote flash fiction it would be like this.

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