Listen to story read by Brett Bowman
[audio:|titles=The Towel|artists=Alec Bryan]

I’ve had it with you. The persimmons bloomed red-orange in my head and all the calyx could think to say was life is a splendid apparition of death. I covered my head with the pillow and I felt the down feathers’ cackling. Death makes for such a precious sleep. Sleep! Who could sleep with the cackling?

The undertaker proceeded to nail the coffin shut as I screamed out, “I’m still breathing.” He wore a black mask and his eyes sparkled blue from the two holes. “Just a precaution,” he assured me, holding a blue lath nail. “The typewriter on the night stand is next. The alphabet rambles red letters all night if not tacked just right.”

The odor of cedar, and I sat crumpled in my ex-wife’s chest at the foot of the bed. “Silly,” I heard her say, “we don’t store perishables in the chest, only pictures, and you are not a picture.” I lifted the lid of her breast and saw the ghost of old love hovering above my head. She held a crown of thorns in one hand and one made of an olive branch in the other. “Which do you prefer?” she asked, though the undertaker had already taken the crown of thorns and driven it down on my forehead until it bled blue. “He’s a mess,” said the doctor. “You can tell by the blue blood that his thoughts are viable as seeds or running water.” He nosed the needle into my vein and black liquid rushed through my body. “That should do, but give him some rest. He must rest now.” My third wife thanked him, then wiped the window clear of frost with her breath.

Outside the trees were trembling and cracking from the torrid ice sheets blanketing them. Whole limbs crashed to the ground. My limbs crashed to the ground and shattered with the brittleness of eighth of an inch thick glass. “What’s happening?” I murmured to the train conductor who said the next stop would be in one minute. By then I was head, shoulders and torso. “My penis,” I yelled. “I can’t feel my penis.”

“Neither could we,” my four ex-wives shouted out in fiendish laughter. “I want the olive branch,” I screamed. “Give me the olive branch.” Old love held it an inch from my face and whispered, “In due time, honey. In due time.” The train stopped at a town with no name. “Don’t forget your luggage, sir,” a first-rate young man said, and threw the heap of appendages out of his dustpan and onto the platform. My ex-wives wheeled me onto the platform, where I heard the train whistle and the wheels slowly screech on the rail. I watched my first wife tenderly hand over my heart to a sculpturist. He plastered it and demanded that it stop beating. “Stop it from beating,” he demanded of me.

“I can’t just stop it from beating,” I muttered. “Bring the watchmaker and the beekeeper,” he asked of my second wife. The beekeeper released the buzzing fury and wasps, not bees, stung my heart until it burnt like an unquenchable fire. “Give him one minute,” said the watchmaker, with his ear pressed against my heart. The minute dragged out into infinity and the stars mocked me by casting darkness, not illumination, around my eyes. “Time’s up,” said the watchmaker. “Ask him now, old love.” Old love extended the olive branch to my swollen eyes. “Do you want it now?” Never have I begged for something more in my life than death. “I want it,” I said. “I want it.”

“Get on your knees,” she demanded, while all present mocked my misery.