Every day Mary comes in to work we see her less and less. We’ve decided she’s about 60% gone now. See-through enough to almost read the signs on the break room wall behind her but still solid enough to perform her favorite party trick of shooting two Tic-Tacs out of her nostrils and catching them in her mouth. We’ve come to terms with it. Mary too, we think. She tells us that disappearing feels like that moment right before a roller coaster drop. We have no way to know if this is true, but we’re sure we don’t ever want to know if it is. She tells us when the day comes that she hits a hundred percent, she’s going to haunt the store for eternity. We tell her there’s no such thing as ghosts, but she gives us the finger and says we ought to be more concerned that there’s no such thing as eternity.
A little background on Mary: Mary is cool and pretty much does what she wants when she wants. Mary’s parents are rich as a goddamn Roman emperor, she told us once. She also says she only works at the store because she doesn’t believe in raping a world that has already been raped into near non-existence like her parents with their unearned wealth, even if it is a retail store full of goods that have been made by raping the world’s resources. It’s in that spirit that she wholly rejects their money outside the occasional assistance with rent or her spring break trip to Panama last year. The only thing Mary seems to prize is her mint green moped that she wants to be buried with, but we wonder if she’s considered giving it to one of us since you can’t bury a body that has faded out of existence.
A week later, around the time we find out Zach and Mary have been bonking, she’s roughly at 70%, like a visible whisper. Of course, we want to know what having sex with someone like that is like. “A gentleman never tells, man,” Zach, who is not a person anyone we know would call a gentleman, says. Four aisles over we see Mary stocking soap dispensers in the Home Goods section and act like we aren’t talking about her and Zach bonking. Zach stares in Mary’s direction and winks, but she is too far away, too far gone for us to be sure if she winks back. If we only use our peripheral vision it looks as if the soap dispensers are stocking themselves.
Our favorite story about Mary: the week before she started disappearing she punched Neil in Sporting Goods square in the nose and gave him a swirly in a very unclean toilet because Meghan in Home & Gardening told Mary he called her a fatass. Later, when we were asked about the incident by management we denied any knowledge and agreed it was an awful thing if it happened. Whether this was because we wanted to have Mary’s back or because we were scared of her are two sides of the same coin really. Plus, none of us like Neil. He’s had it coming for a long time. Like most men he acts like the world was made for him.
Now Mary is sitting at roughly 87%. We think it’s finally getting to her when her hand slices right through the pen she tried to use for the inter-franchise kickball team sign-ups management posted at lunch. Another fact about Mary: she loves kickball. She once told us how she wished life was just a long game of kickball. In kickball, she said, she could always see what was coming at her and she could mentally place what was coming at another location in space and time—by which we think she meant field—and put it there with a strong blow. We ask if she wants us to sign her name for her but she asks what’s the point when everyone knows intangible people can’t play kickball? Her voice is a shadow of sound when she talks now, her vocal chords ethering out like the rest of her. Another thing about Mary: she was all about that real talk, bitch.
We’re pretty sure Mary is 100% gone now. We don’t see her anymore or hear her. Zach quit the store the next day, his eyes moist with tears that seemed a bit forced for our taste, and declared that the store just wouldn’t be the same anymore even though he’d only been working there three months. Neil takes over Mary’s position as head of Home Goods in part as reparations for the whole swirly incident. We all want to barf, but he’s been taking Krav Maga lessons ever since Mary dunked him in the shitter, and none of us are brave enough to say anything against him publicly. Management didn’t acknowledge Mary’s absence beyond unceremoniously doling out the extra hours to some of us in order to pick up the slack left in her wake. Otherwise life quickly hustles back into normality. Don’t get us wrong. We miss Mary. The way Mary didn’t sweat anything. How well she hid it if she did. The way Mary refused to quarter any nonsense. The way she lived without ever apologizing. But Mary’s gone now, sifted. And—for all whatever it means—we’re still here and now we have to go on until there’s nothing left of us either. Though when Neil trips over a pallet in the store room and breaks his arm we find ourselves wondering if anything is ever truly gone.
TYREL KESSINGER — Tyrel is a stay-at-home dad of two wild animal-like things. His work can be found in several places with some coming soon from Washington Square Review, Crab Creek Review and Wilderness House Literary Review. To read all his viral tweets find him at @KessingerTyrel.
Art by CARISSA MCQUEEN — Carissa began attending studio art classes at 7, and tagged along to a California College of Arts summer atelier in junior high where she learned printmaking and attended her first life drawing class. She paints mostly while traveling, and is excited to collaborate with literary and musical artists in 2021 to interpret new themes and experiment with techniques. She loves brilliantly adapted novels, sailing and speakeasies. You can find her living in Los Angeles with her 6-speed Mini Cooper and a tiny but mighty butterfly garden. Or raiding her sister’s supply closest for brushes and gel medium.