Barbara Quinn


The Last Barbecue

     They buried Mr. Riccardi today. Afterwards, Mrs. Riccardi hauled out the barbecue and lit a fire. She tossed in Mr. Riccardi's collection of empty cereal boxes.

     "Why'd you do that?" asked a familiar voice.

     Mrs. Riccardi looked over her shoulder. The voice from the barbecue grew stronger.

     "What do you think you're doing?"

     Mrs. Riccardi peered into the hottest part of the coals.

     "Shut up. You're dead," she said.

     "How can I be talking to you if I'm dead?"

     "Maybe you're not all the way dead yet. You always were a late bloomer."

     "My life was hard. Why can't I die a normal death?"

     "Stop whining, thinking about yourself as usual. What about ME? I'm eighty-four and need a rest."

     Mrs. Riccardi threw Mr. Riccardi's collection of newspaper clippings onto the fire.

     "Stop! That feels funny."

     "You're dead. You can't feel anything."

     Mrs. Riccardi lit a cigarette. She jabbed the coals. The barbecue shuddered. She prodded.

     "I'm lightheaded," said Mr. Riccardi.

     She tossed more things into the barbecue. It shook violently. A wheel popped off. With a giant puff of smoke, it emptied.

     "You there?" she asked.


     She leaned back and took a long drag, smiling at the cloudless sky.