Día de los Muertos / by Caitlin Stall-Paquet

First, I heard sharp rain on the window. Soares Grocery’s delivery men downstairs yelling at each other in Portuguese as they backed up the truck, dangerously close to the building. Henry’s snoring. He was still wearing his devil horns. Took my eyes a few minutes to adjust to the ceiling and the pounding in my head. 

First, I smelled the sickly sweet, sour aroma. Decay. The kitchen garbage. Henry smelled like he’d fallen asleep from bourbon. 

I lifted my head, brain crashing against skull, a tidal wave. I crawled out of bed backwards, feet first, breech birth. My blue pillowcase was marked with black and white makeup. First, I needed to deal with the garbage. The kitchen smelled of whiskey, tequila and Cuban butts squashed on the floor. Candy worms were in the punch bowl, Gaby dressed as Frida Khalo was sleeping on the floor by the door. 

The rotting smell rose above it all. I took a deep breath. I could here them as I removed the garbage can cover. Maggots crawling through a piece of meat. I tied up the bag without breathing, them squirming. I ran down the stairs, flung open the door and threw the infested bag to the curb, narrowly missing two women dressed respectively as sexy cat and sexy mouse. Dishevelled, a walk of shame. They glared at me as they passed. I stepped down onto the sidewalk, looked at myself in a car window and saw that half my skeleton makeup was still intact. 

A cold wind rose in the grey sky, blowing the last brown leaves from the trees, tossing them, mixing them with rain and brightly coloured candy wrappers discarded in the street. A mini Snickers wrapper hit me in the face. I looked back at my half-living reflection. Thought about tiny chocolate bars and candy-filled booze standing in for remembering our dead.

I thought of my uncle John. The last thing I saw of him was his frail hand reaching for a glass of water as I opened the door to leave, the rest of him obscured by a bouquet of white lilies. 

I though of Henry’s mother who couldn’t talk anymore, stopped asking for help, stopped speaking, couldn’t take it.

I thought of my friend Caroline’s little brother who felt like he was drowning when he breathed. 

I thought of the barista at the café up the street who was drunk and forgot to ask if the noodles contained peanuts. 

I thought of the woman I read about in the paper who was hit by a truck biking under the St-Denis Street overpass last summer. 

I looked up at our patio, empty bottles slowly filling up with water, some half full of alcohol. Wounded soldiers. The rain was making my makeup run down the right side of my face; the black and white streaks stung my eye. I went back upstairs to remove the rest.





Caitlin Stall-Paquet is a Montreal-based writer who loves books, cheese and libations. Her work has been published inenRoute Magazine, VicePaste Magazine, Cult MTL, Matrix and She Does the City