Random short fiction 10.9.2, from Cha: An Asian Literary Journal — here’s the link. [Note: my random story selection algo came up empty 9 times in a row — the mag was poetry only, or print only, or behind a paywall, or defunct — before landing on an online fictional text I could read, interact with, hopefully discuss. Do the aleatory misfires, repeated with a frequency that strains chance itself, portend the closing of a portal?]
It’s the neat one who dies first, not the sloppy one. To the onlooker her indifference to cleanliness and tidiness carries over to marital indifference: she won’t miss him now that he’s dead and gone. But she’d also been widely recognized as the maestra of the parochial school, the most religious hermana at church. Her unwashed mumuu and unwashed body constitute not her indifference to cleanliness but her hardheaded habit — a consciously cultivated discipline. Catholicism, with its obsessive commitment to ritual, doesn’t commend indifference to routine; it is firmly committed to ritual, to consciously cultivated discipline, to the practice of hardheaded habits. Her daughters too are devoted to the ritualistic performance of their filial duties: every month, once a week.
“Death for Serafina” is the title of this story, but Serafina doesn’t die in the end. Do her sister’s ministrations, her cleaning and cooking and repairing, constitute a kind of death for Serafina, an extinguishing of her carefully nurtured disciplines of slovenliness, the swinging of the bleach-soaked mop and the moving of furniture prefiguring her own heavy corpse getting dragged through the corridor? Or from the beginning of the story is Serafina already dead, a priestess of entropy and decay perpetually administering last rites to her own body/corpse and home/tomb?