by Charles Anders
I never knew why the wedding presents arrived right after
the divorce. Maybe Spring cleaning in the in-laws' attic.
Maybe the mother in law's idea of closure.
Angie's duvet and African throw rug disappeared under artifacts
from a civilization that had never existed. A device to
pull the guts from a lemon without disturbing the skin.
A truffle shaver. A home brewing kit for alcoholic cider.
I held up a twisted implement with a serrated grating to
"I've seen junk. I've seen clutter," I said. "But
I've never seen bric-a-brac. This is bric-a-brac."
Since we'd married, I'd come out as a pervert and Angie
had found Jesus. Now we sat, newly unrelated, in a gift
Then we spotted the envelopes. Half a dozen of them, card-sized
and gilt-edged. I opened one. Inside, a card and a check
for $100. "Not bad," I said. "Can we still
deposit this after so long?"
"Let me see." Angie's brown eyes narrowed and
her mouth opened on one side. "This is from Dr. Engler.
He was an old friend of my family. He's dead now."
She opened another one. "Loleatta Bradley gave us $50.
She's dead too." It turned out all six checks came
"Weird," I said. "But I guess it makes sense?
They were the oldest people at our wedding. They didn't
know what to get us. Obviously, they'd never heard of a
mushroom grinder, or whatever this thing is." I gestured
at the object in my left hand.
"This isn't funny," Angie said. Angie had a sense
of humor, before Jesus sucked her brain out. She crossed
herself. "It's like finding skeleton fingers in a bouquet."
Angie leaned over the opened boxes. The crucifix around
her elegant neck bumped a shrink-wrapped table lamp. "Do
you think you could use any of these things in your S&M?"
Angie attempted tolerance. "I mean, this pasta rake
looks downright scary."
I laughed. Maybe Angie hadn't totally lost her sense of
humor. "Yeah," I said. "I could totally terrorize
a helpless submissive with this beef jerky gun." We
Angie picked up the defunct checks again. "Theres
a lot of money here." She fanned them like playing
cards. "It seems a waste to trash them. We could recycle
It did seem a waste. The six oldest people at the wedding
had wished us well in their doomed fashion.
"Maybe there is something. When I lived in Hong Kong,
the people used to burn paper money to give it to the dead.
I dont know if it works for checks." It was my
We endorsed each check on the back to "CASH" and
signed underneath. Then we went out to Angie's concrete
porch, facing a tiny wildflower garden. There, we lit a
small fire and dropped the checks in one by one. We sat
staring at the fire in silence long after all the checks'
pictures of mountains and cowboys had darkened and crumbled.
Charles Anders (www.charlesanders.com)
has been a psychic receptionist, a monkey frightener and a journalist.
His writing has appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian,
the New York Press, Strange Horizons, Cyber Age Adventures,
Scarlet Letters, Space & Time and the forthcoming anthology
Pills Thrills Chills & Heartache. His book The
Lazy Crossdresser came out in February 2002 from Greenery