The Last One Standing

There were things she did right and God knows when even they got done. One: they scattered (she and the children), though she didn’t even know it at the time. With the Guardia pounding on the door she did what she had, it only occurred to her later, been preparing to do for the last twenty years. She ran. She jumped out of the second floor window onto the roof sliding off the side of the house. ‘Fag,’ her mind blindly noted as the cigarette she had been about to light fell to the earth below her.

She began to run, sprinting and pulling as fast she could, and it was a graceful motion, lovely, in fact, to watch. And it felt lovely. She felt strong, ready, released as she tore down the street and around the corner. She had never felt this free before.

Second: she’d had a plan. All these years, without even knowing it (or perhaps unable to admit it), she’d woven and gathered her thoughts for the purpose of this very moment. She felt a strange calm befall her, despite the enormity of the present conditions, as if she’d finally began the race she’d been preparing for all these years. It was a relief, really, to be finally running at all. She ran determinedly, fluidly, more like a professional athlete in those moments than a mother of any kind.

Third: she’d had the children that she did. Raised, as they were, in a house of silent preparedness, of readiness unspoken, they, too, had their plans. Perhaps it was the way she’d let things go sometimes, leaving them, as she did, with their thoughts and ideas. It hadn’t been neglect, no, none could accuse her of that. More an independence she’d instilled in them, a silent betrothal to the sureness she’d hardened in herself all of these years.

And so, when the Guardia descended upon their house and homestead-shouting and puffing and pounding-it wasn’t as if life for them had ended at all. For them, rather, it seemed as if life had finally begun.

GEORGIA 12:47 pm
She looked up from the novel she’d been reading (browsing, really) and cocked her head to the slightest lean, like an animal taking the pulse of its surroundings. Unbeknownst to her, her mother and brother were elsewhere in the house at that time, in their own way doing the exact same thing. Like birds they seemed then, ready and waiting to fly, only needing reason or opportunity.

And so, when the Guardia pounded, in those precious few seconds before the fall, she’d inadvertently left herself ready. She leapt easily from the bed and toward the door of her room, reaching for the handle and pulling it closed firmly behind her. She grabbed her school satchel, sweeping a sweater and some money off the top of the dresser.

In less than a minute she was out of the window and crossing the yard. Hers was the more fluid escape of the two Faussey women-as if what skills her mother earned in life had been passed on collectively to her, through the womb. She had, indeed, not known any other way than to be prepared. Life, she had always supposed, just threw things at you. That was life, then.

KEEFER 12:47 pm
In the moments before a war, he had always imagined things becoming silent, as if the intentioned hush belied a knowing of impending eruption. The deeper the silence, the greater the war. It was this echoing witness to the fall that had alerted him. He felt it deeply, within his bones. He, too, was a child of war. And so, when the Guardia arrived he moved calmly, slowly, surely-as if he’d been waiting on their arrival for days before.

He felt his back pocket for his wallet and stood beside the door, shifting slightly off to the left. He knew their drills, knew their weakness, he’d watched them training, trained with them, to be sure. He sneered now, in the seconds before, as he felt their footsteps pounding up the stairs and towards him. To them it was a mission to be completed quickly, efficiently, as cleanly as possible. He smiled slightly as he saw the doorknob begin to turn. He knew the last one standing won the war.


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