The Fresh Shade of a Woman
Margot Comstock

T he fresh shade of a woman sat on a trashcan watching Donovan Spade enter Shubert Alley. Instantly the ghostly form dissolved into ashes, distributing itself evenly over the cracked pavement like sawdust in a Village cafe. Cremated legs, arms, shoulders, head spread quickly and found their level like water, no part higher than another.

Last week the living woman had danced with Spade in a nightclub in the clouds, Manhattan sparkling at her feet.

Grief rent her soul for the life she had lost. She was cold in spirit, empty and forsaken. Silently she howled as sorrow wracked her; in her anguish she writhed and reformed and flew.

The storm of her misery spent, she went back to the trashcan and found it toppled over. She reached to right it but couldn't. Anger became fury; she railed at her awful state.

The can trembled and rolled. Did I do that? She willed the can to roll. It did not. Disappointment refueled her anger and she exhorted the can to move. It shuddered.

Three hours later, the can was upright. Only the dead might have seen the exhausted, triumphant spirit lounging against it.

Donovan Spade exited the theater at midnight and, living though he was, saw the strange whitish ashes rise from the pavement and form the shape of the fiance he had thrown from high in the RCA Building days before. In terror, he ran from the Alley into 44th Street and there succumbed to retribution under a checkered cab.

First published: November 2000