Mollusks in the Air by Julie Flattery

My dad and I are sitting at this bistro table in the sky having a great conversation—a really lovely time. I’m not eating or drinking anything, but he’s eating a bowl of steamed mussels that appears to be bottomless. He’s making no headway whatsoever.

Eating seems like the wrong word because he’s actually chowing down on them like there’s no tomorrow, which there isn’t, for him at least, because he’s dead. He’s been dead for years, but he showed up in my dream to say hi and eat these mussels. He’s talking with his mouth full, which is ironic to me because he was always very strict about table manners. I guess all decorum subsides in the afterlife since he really does seem more laidback.

There’s nothing around us at all. Just the bistro table, the bowl of mussels, and a pile—and I do mean pile—of mussel shells stacking up next to us. We always did love a good mollusk, my dad and I. The smell of the sea at low tide with a hint of wine was overwhelming in a good way. So much so that I didn’t need to eat any myself, although there were plenty. Instead, I just took in the odor, which my dad seemed oblivious to.

We’re chit-chatting back and forth in a lively and animated fashion. I’m talking really fast because I’m not sure how much time we have to visit. Everything seems big—my dad’s gestures and the way his voice sounds loud and enthusiast when I tell him about my life, responding with things like: Wow!  Or, I’m so proud of you! I’m really just hitting the high points because I figure he already knows everything although I admit, I’m not really sure how this whole afterlife thing works. Mostly, I just want to know about the dimes.

For years I’ve been finding dimes in random places like on my car windshield, or under my yoga mat at the studio, or on my mantel in the living room. One day, after going through security at the airport, a dime rolled on its side from across the room and landed at my feet. There was only two other people in the vicinity at the time, and they assured me that it wasn’t their dime. So, I started saving them. Because of the oddity of the situation, I figured it meant something. I have a pickle jar full of dimes now. Then I read a book about the ways our people let us know they’re still around when they die and one of the ways was, you guessed it, leaving dimes. Mind blown!

Hey, dad. Have you been leaving dimes around for me?

He looks me right in the eye for a second with a sly little smile on his face, which seems to be fading, like someone over-photoshopped his cheeks. Then he apologizes. I’m sorry, sugar, I don’t mean to be rude, I know I’m really devouring these mussels, but they don’t have them where I live now and I really miss them.

Then he disappears without any pomp and circumstance and there’s nothing in front of me but an empty bowl.

Maybe I’ll dream up some clams for our next visit! In my dream I’m yelling this into the ether but in reality, I’m talking in my sleep, which wakes me up.

As I climb out of bed, I notice a dime on my nightstand and the sweet smell of steamed mussels permeating the house.

Julie Flattery loves dogs, yoga, hiking, and writing and also enjoys collecting dimes. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Red Fez, Emerge Literary Journal, Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog, and Meat for Tea. Six of her plays have been performed at the iDiOM theater in Bellingham, WA. She writes professionally about architecture and building design.

Twitter: @Julzywrites

Instagram: julieflattery