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Friday Feature: Almah LaVon Rice


Almah LaVon Rice is a creature of myth rumored to be working on a speculative novella.

Her fiction has been supported by The Black Unicorn and Archive Project, the Unicorn Authors Club, Blue Mountain Center, and the Pittsburgh Foundation. Follow her website and on Instagram.



VIGIL

by Almah LaVon Rice


It is the best, most unbearable part of the day. After hours of making phone calls, distributing flyers, and posting in the “Let’s Find Nerissa!!!” Facebook page, Imani permits herself one confection: holding Ziggy, Kissy, and Turtle and howling into their plush stomachs. The three stuffed cows were–are, Imani berates herself--Nerissa’s favorites. They become Imani’s favorite creatures, too, because with their chronic, stitched-on smiles they are the only things in the world that have the decency to stay still. Imani settles back on the little-girl bed. Stapled. The only movement she will allow are the tears, which crawl into her ears like insects. Her neighbors are coming home from work–laughing, cheep-cheeping their car doors and trying to bring in all of their groceries in one trip. The sun, the most mindless shift worker of them all, is heading to sea for its evening dip. Her son, Damon, games in his room but she can still hear the muffle of men being killed, threats neutralized. She takes his cracking voice and exploding acne as the insults that they were intended. Her husband, Malik, is making his haphazard music with the pots and pans, cutlery clink, and ping. The smell of the holy trinity being sautéd somehow slithers under the closed door, turning her stomach. Malik insists on making infuriatingly balanced dinners for all of them. Well, not all of them. He refuses to set out a plate and a small portion for Nerissa, like Imani has begged him to.


Malik might leave her, finally. Imani is not sure she cares. You’re going overboard, warns the Greek chorus of her friends, her mother, and even her therapist. Imani has squeezed their bank account dry with the shaman, the psychics, and the private investigators who seemed to rely more on Google than shoe leather. She maxed out their credit cards buying gifts–a luxury dollhouse, limited edition figurines–for her baby girl. Nerissa deserved a welcome-home party with presents, didn’t she? Malik suggested that they move and his wife didn’t look at him for two days. “You know, make new memories?” he tried to explain to Imani’s back. But the old memories were perfectly fine–plus, how could Nerissa find them if they moved away? Imani found that no matter what the articles said, grief had an expiration date. It was okay to rock and nurse the silhouette of a missing daughter for a time, according to her mother nem, but sympathies curdled if. If…you went on like this, keening in a too-small bed for a little girl assumed dead. Detective Ross said as much in their living room ages ago, shifting from foot to foot and avoiding their eyes. “Three hours,” he said. “If something…final…happened to her, it happened within the first three hours of abduction, statistically speaking.” The detective finally looked at Malik imploringly, as if it was the shell-shocked father’s job to rescue him. He would not dare look at Imani, whose animal moans made him nauseous. After that first visit, he never returned, had his assistant pick up Imani’s calls.


If I could turn back time, Imani thought, Cher had no fucking idea. If she could, she would peel the days back like a blood orange. It would be dark and sweet to see Damon lose his chin hairs, to confound the sun. To live, once again, in the same year that they had lost Nerissa in. To have just found her Princess Tiana backpack in a swampy field, search teams swarming with hope. Malik calls to her now, from the other side of the door. Dinner is ready. She is not.


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