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"Did you pack the camera charger?" she asks, lining her eyes with plum in the bathroom mirror.

He's reading on the toilet. There's a pause. "You want to take pictures?" he asks, words shot through with poorly-masked incredulity.

She's quiet, blending her eyeliner, applying mascara. Replies form in her mouth and die on her tongue. Finally she says, "Did you know it used to be common to photograph people in their coffins?"

Eggshells shatter between their toes. Five words is all she gets, all he can manage. He spent them all.

"I saw a collection of photos at this little pioneer museum once. They had a mannequin laid in white in an antique coffin. There were photos on the walls. Lots. Like, sepia. I can't remember the years exactly."

He twists back, flushes, stays seated, eyes carefully affixed to the page.

"That wasn't the whole museum, I mean, they had other things. A dentist's office with all the old tools on a tray, and a schoolroom, and an iron lung. I wonder where they found the mannequins. I bet it was expensive. It was a small town."

After two days of two people saying almost nothing, the words sound violent, bruising the air. She digs through a china box for her other earring.

"I didn't pack the charger," he says. He flips the page, begins to read about football helmets.

She finds the earring, slips into black pumps, clacks to the door. She looks over her shoulder. "Our flight is in an hour," she says. "I'll make sure to pack your tie."

Story by:

Jacquelyn Bengfort

3 December 2013