Short Stories
In this story, I intentionally wrote ungrammatical sentences, instead following what I call Sequential Phrase Grammar. Notice how it is no problem to understand the story.


by Emma Sohan

I'm sitting on the hill, waiting, and watching, enjoying the sun and the breeze and being a ghost for a day.

Norm appears next to me, like he does every year. Funny how dying on the same day and being buried in the same cemetery could tie two guys together, but there it is -- Norm saying hi, Norm asking about my afterlife, us shaking hands, then Norm and me sitting on the hill, sitting and sitting, sharing stories, watching, waiting. Wondering.

A car, Wendy's car, we both recognize it, and Norm goes racing down the hill, even though there's no hurry, but this is his one day every year to see his wife, so he's excited. Me following, more leisurely, by the time I get there Norm is lying face-up on his grave.

"That's creepy," I say. "Sit up."

"She imagines me lying here."

"She imagines you six feet under."

"Shush, she's coming."

"She can't hear us." He knows that.

"Yeah, but I want to hear her."

So I stay quiet, watching the drama, but it's not TV -- it's a real guy, and he's dead and she's not, and they love each other, and this is really important to them.

She kneels in front of his grave. "Hi Norman. I brought you some flowers." She places them on his grave and they sink right through his leg.

Norm says, real sincere, "Thanks." I see a tear in his eye. Norm doesn't like flowers so much, but her gift means a lot to him.

"I don't know if you can hear me." She looks around, but she can't see us of course.

Then she takes out pictures, like she does every year, and shows them to Norm's grave. Now he sits up and looks closely. "Cynthia. Look at that belly! She's due in two months. You're going to be a grandfather again! Aren't you proud?"

Norm jumps up, does a fist pump, and shouts, "YES!" I have to laugh.

"Here's Rebecca's school picture." Norm stops jumping around and looks. "And here she is at Halloween."

Norm looks at the picture, then me. "Some princess, I think."

"I, uh." She stops. "Well . . . " I can see exactly what's coming, but Norm looks clueless. She does this really huge sigh. "I met someone."

Norm looks puzzled. Poor guy.

"I was lonely."

And then the light goes out in Norm's eye. And he slumps and then lies back down on his grave.

"I know you would want me to be happy."

We watch her walk back to the car, drive off, Norm stands up dejectedly, and I say, "You want her to be happy, right?"

"I guess." He shrugs. "But . . ."

He can't finish. I put my hand on his shoulder. "It'll be okay."

"Yeah." He doesn't sound sure. He shakes his head once, looks me in the eye plaintively, then disappears.

I thought, with all the fucking disappointments in life, that the after-life would be better, but I'm wrong. I walk over to my grave, and sit there, and then I lie down too, even though it's creepy, but I'm too depressed to sit up, and I wait for Martha.

And the sun goes behind a cloud, which is depressing, and then it comes out again, but the sunshine doesn't making me happy anymore, and I lie and wait, and wait. And wonder. And worry.

HANDS, REACHING OUT OF MY GRAVE, GRABBING ME! I scream with terror, panicking, breaking free! Running, fleeing, zombie-hell, worst nightmare ever, and I hear . . .


I stop, turn around, ready to run, but . . . it's Martha slowly rising out my grave.

She smiles at me. "Scaredy-cat."

"Son-of-a-bitch, Martha, don't ever do that again." But I'm smiling too.

She holds out her hands to me. "Hi." I start walking towards her. "I'm sorry you died."

"Don't be silly. Now I'm where I want to be."

I sweep her into a big hug, my hands don't pass through her, she says she loves me, I look into her eyes.

She's here. She does.

I love her even more, and I tell her that, and we're together, and the sun is shining as we walk up the hill hand-in-hand.

P.S. It is kind of against the rules of Sequential Phrase Grammar to have embedded phrases. This story has exactly one, and the change in grammar also signals a change in mood/style. It's I thought, with all...

Sequential Phrase Grammar is usually done with commas, but it can be done with periods (and short sentences). That also gave me a way to change grammar.

Short Stories