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About the Author
Kit McAllister is a freelance illustrator and writer who is also in the process of completing his BFA. When not occupied with that, he scrambles to maintain a presence on the arts and social scene of Toronto. (It is rumoured he disappears into his tower to conjure up images out of thin air!) Stress management includes Zen, Tai-Chi and Muay Thai. You can also check out his profile on MySpace; as for the “Tower” rumour – not exactly true. He does come down for coffee at his favourite café!
« MO »

Ill | Kit McAllister



It Begins With Your Family
Kit McAllister
“It certainly sucks to be me today.”
The words dropped from Molly’s lips. She sat on the edge of the warehouse roof staring down at the rain-slicked streets. Oblivious to the pelting rain, focusing on nothing.
“So it sucks tonight or even tomorrow, but not forever.”
Raphael stood behind Molly. She had felt his presence before he had even said anything. It was comforting actually. Raphael had a tendency to materialize right behind her and jolt her out of habitual brooding with just the quietest of whispers. Not today though, but his epithet about, ‘forever,’ she could do without that.
“ I knew you’d say that.” She sneered from one corner of her mouth.
“ Damn it Ralph, just once I like to hear something different.”
“Something different.” He parroted. He took a seat next to Molly and turned his gaze towards her. She shuddered slightly, not from the cold, but from his eyes, those eyes, they were the colour of the moon tonight. Raphael: God has healed; she called him “Ralph,” and he liked it.
“So what pains you?”
“Why don’t you look inside me and see?” Molly snapped.
“As you would say ‘talk to me’.”
“Petra...”
She had been Molly’s best friend since fifth grade.
That was all gone now, abruptly ended with a few vindictive cuts from a jackknife. All that had happened before that moment blurred and faded, but that scene in the bathroom. That was burned into Molly’s memory.
She remembered the water seeping under the bathroom door. No, damn her! Not this time! Not this time! She remembered bursting through the door stepping into the shallow pool of red-tinged water overflowing from the bathtub. She remembered the quilt-work of scars running down Petra’s right wrist, the hand jutting out of the tub. This time there were new wounds.
The hand was crooked, pointing towards a postcard taped to the tiling.
It was a postcard of Michelangelo’s, Creation Of Adam. Molly had peeled it off the to tiles to find three words inscribed on the back: I’m sorry, Petra.
She was sorry? Sorry for making good on her threat to kill herself? Sorry for the pain she inflicted? Or perhaps the dreadful irony that Petra relished, the very fact that her hand was crooked into the same position as Adam’s on the postcard. A fucking fluke, oh thank you so very much darling!
“Her suicide... it hurts so much, does she hurt? Does she know? Is she damned?” sobbed Molly.
A quiet chuckle from Raphael.
“Oh fuck you! Mister High and Mighty!”
“Molly.” His eyes were on her and she felt the anger stilled like a book slammed shut.
“I was not laughing at you. Only the concept people have about suicide. And no, she is not damned.” Raphael paused and turned his eyes toward Molly, “Tell me about Petra.”
With that, Molly found the words drifting from her lips. The memories, the anecdotes, but her account of Petra was that of a witness shattered by the violent act they have just seen, desperately cataloging the events for fear of losing them.
And then...
“She...” Molly felt her throat constricting, cutting her off.
Raphael drew closer to her. “I think it would not hurt for you to see.”
Molly felt Raphael’s greatcoat wrap around her. Or was it something else that enveloped her? A rush of wind, a flurry of voices, murmurs, sobs and prayers, curses. She felt herself propelled through the night air, the glare of streetlights blurred with the indigo of the night. More sounds. A fluttering.
And then...
There she was on the stoop with Petra drinking Tiger stripes. Trying to out belch each other. There they were another time, up at grandma’s cottage launching off the dock into the cool lake.
Another time, confessing their first crushes on the same boy. Smoking their first joint and sputtering and coughing, through the giggles. Another time, listening to Vision Thing by The Sisters Of Mercy. Graduation. A trip to England. Boyfriends, first loves, heartache. Oaths of chastity, soon broken.
Quiet moments together on the curb outside the clubs on nights cold and hot.
And her eyes, Petra’s eyes haunting, fragile eyes. God no! Not then! Why didn’t you tell me!
A howl erupted from her.
A wail of frustration and despair that slowly, mercilessly, clawed its way out of her. Pain incomprehensible, unceasing, her world fell into darkness. She curled herself into a ball, desperate to shelter herself from her pain.
Please stop! Oh God, make it stop!
But there was no God. There was nothing but the echo...
Wait. Another voice, distant. Was it actually words? From behind, no. Where? From the east. A chant. It spoke of pain, of joy, disillusionment and hope, of doubt and faith, of youth and age, light and darkness, the infinite and finite. Of form and emptiness.
“Hey Squirrelly.”
Molly looked up towards the familiar voice. Incredulous, she stammered. “Puh-Petra?”
“Duh!”
Yes it was, there was no mistaking her impish grin. Molly loved that face. It was better than the lost look that she had worn far too often these last few years. Molly stood up. Where was she? It was very quiet.
“Why d’ya do it?” she asked her voice quavering.
“You’re asking me? OK. I screwed up, that much I can tell you.”
“Why’d ya do it?” Molly implored.
“EHNNNH! Wrong question.”
“WHY!”
“EHNNNH!” Petra squawked.
“Can it with the game show schtick Petra!”
“OK I can’t answer that, all right? Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the car crash, or that horrible night at the club. Maybe it was just the creepy Leprechaun on the cereal box that told me to do it.” Petra’s eyebrow cocked wryly.
“Know what Squirrelly? The ball’s in your court.”
“Me?”
“Yeah sport: You connect the dots, you put back the pieces.”
“Laurie Anderson.” replied Molly.
“Yep my favourite quote.”
“I know it’s on your website.”
“It’s still up?”
“Of course stupid, you’ve haven’t been gone that long.”
Molly paused, “We were thinking...”
“Yeah?”
“We were thinking of making it a memorial site.”
“Oh god no! No broadcasting, no warm fuzzy talk show, have a get together, get loaded, anything but that!”
“Yeah”, grinned Molly sheepishly. “Kinda stupid.”
There was a very long pause. Molly looked up, then to the side. I’m never gonna see her again and I can’t even look at her. Finally she ran towards Petra, and threw her arms around her.
“I’m gonna miss you kiddo.” Molly found the tears rushing back.
“Me too but you’re gonna be okay.” “Trust yourself Molly.”
Shaking, Molly tried to steady herself, clutching Petra even more tightly. Can I do that? I’m not even sure I can feel right now. There was that fluttering sound again. Yeah, I have to trust me. Molly stepped away from Petra, committing her image to memory. Smiling, Petra reached across and brushed a tear from Molly’s face.
“ I know I’m not telling what you want to hear sweetie. I can’t. Because I don’t know what’s going on either. ”
Molly stood there stunned. “It’s not supposed... to be like that.” Petra flashed a beatific smile, “ I know.” Another pause. The stillness was palpable.
“I gotta go. See you ‘round Squirrelly.”
“Aw-ite kiddo.” Molly said through the tears. And the tears blurred the vision in front of her, as the fluttering sound returned.
“How are you?”
Molly looked up into Raphael’s face. She was cradled in his arms on a grassy knoll. She looked around to see they were in a cemetery across from the columbarium.
It had stopped raining.
Molly stared at the columbarium. It had been decided that Petra’s ashes would be interred in the family chamber there.
“She doesn’t belong there.”
“Really? Where then?”
“I was thinking of taking her ashes up to the cottage. Cast them out on the lake by the rope swing. Just close family and friends?”
“ That sounds like a lovely send off.”
“Really? Do you think her folks would go for it?”
“I believe they would find you most persuasive”
Another pause and in that pause, the stillness returned. She looked up at Raphael. “I’m hungry.”
A broad smile spread across Raphael’s face. “So am I.”
“ There’s that all-night diner down the street.” Molly suggested.
“Lead the way.”
Raphael helped Molly up and the two them walked towards the gates. Raphael began to sing quietly:
Oh the sisters of mercy they are not departed or gone
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on
It was Leonard Cohen’s Sisters Of Mercy one of Raphael’s favourites.
Molly stopped. “You were...”
“I was what?” Raphael turned towards her, and Molly felt his eyes.
“OK... forget I ever asked.”
“Parlour tricks.” he added, “With considerable help from The Heart Sutra.” He returned to the song:
Yes you, who must leave everything that you cannot control
It begins with your family but soon it comes ‘ round to your soul
“You know that song’s about prostitutes, don’t you?”
“So you’ve told me many times, Molly.”
“So I’m telling you again!”
They erupted into laughter. Then a pause. In that pause, the stillness had asserted itself. What had happened back there? Had she traveled to another plane? Had ‘Ralph’ messed with her head? No. Ralph didn’t do that. But what? She had lost a friend. No. Family.
There were things still left unanswered, but there were answers. And in the chaos of her loss, in her confusion there was that stillness. Molly then realized that the stillness was within her. She smiled to herself.
“Shall we?” Raphael proffered his arm, and together they walked out of the cemetery into the warm, dark night.