h e a t h e r    m c s h a n e




My new husband and I decided to start by sitting far apart from each other in the reception hall and, over the course of the evening, make our way closer.

As we waited for dinner to be served, I asked if any of the children would be willing to teach us a song. A girl, about five, who had been fumbling around by her father’s knee, stood in the aisle and began singing “Frère Jacques.” She didn’t know the correct pronunciations, but no one laughed or corrected her; we all simply repeated what she sang. I thought the song a nice choice because we could sing it in a round.

The most humbling moment for me happened in the bathroom, when my girlfriends lifted my dress.


The next day, in my sister’s studio, a sun-filled room with a tall table in the middle surrounded by stools, I tried on one of the large paper-mâché masks from the night before. The mask was lightweight, resting on my shoulders. Despite the mask’s size, I attempted to extend my arm out far enough to capture a photo of myself against the backdrop of the sea. I looked up from the camera’s screen when my sister, also in a mask, walked slowly by the studio door before she redoubled and entered the room, her morning coffee in hand.


Years later, in a small room overlooking the same sea, an ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend and I reclined on a blanket, a microphone between us. In a charming accent, she explained how a client first paid 800, complained, forgot they had complained, paid 1200. She stood and began pacing between the microphone on the floor and the record player on the counter as she told how now she had 2400 to use to play the client’s records on the radio. I thought he likes short-haired women these days and so small—how does that even work?

My ex-boyfriend called her. She had forgotten to announce something on the radio. She did so before we sat around a small table to bowls of walnut soup. With the spoon, my ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend turned over a bobbing walnut. The walnut resembled a tiny skull.


More years passed. A group of us searched for clues in shallow waters. A woman reminded us small creatures lived just under the sand. “With your foot, you can disturb them.”

We returned to our small individual boats; a friend’s floated near mine. A big boat docked. A man in the water released a lever on the big boat, springing open a rolled door to reveal my friend’s dead husband slumped over in his small red boat. I looked to my friend—I remember noticing her hair was long then—who said, “I’ll take care of the body.”



HEATHER MCSHANE’s writings can be found in elimae, Everyday Genius, the2ndhand, Bad at Sports, The Lantern Daily, and elsewhere online and in print. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she taught creative writing in their Early College Program and was an associate editor of Dear Navigator.

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