The Town Buries Its Mayor

Things our former mayor liked: 1. Laws. 2. Butter. 3. Composting. 4. Small doses of fentanyl. 5. Kindness. 6. Her grandfather’s suits. She had been a good and fair mayor; she was a creature of curious depth and strangeness and endless strength. She would bend her ear to anyone who needed it; she broke her back for her neighbors on moving day. She created laws that helped the old, the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable, unlike the Town doctor who had run from her responsibilities, unlike the Town mystic who had embarrassed us with her fervor. She had come to the Town from far away, from a place we derided as polluted and primitive, and she often remarked on how the air here was almost too fine and rich for her lungs; she felt she was breathing in stolen gold and emeralds that she had no right to possess. See: she was charmingly modest!

She had been told the truth of our Town’s policy with female mayors – that they were allowed to rule, perfectly or imperfectly, for five years, and then they were broken down and brought to the burial cairn on the neighboring island. She had agreed to these terms but when her time comes we are disappointed to find her weeping in the barnyard amidst her scattered papers. A billowing red mist appears to be emerging from her heart. The goats are nibbling her bowed head. We place our hands upon her, we pick her up using all the gentleness at our disposal, and we pass her over our heads, toward the water. Had the moment been less solemn she would have realized the pleasures of crowd surfing! We move her toward the shore, where the strongest of us are waiting, with the boat.

For the mayor’s sake we had hoped for grey skies but instead the day is driving its sunlight down our throats. We pile into the boat, and power it with eight people per side. Our mayor is laid out on the bottom. She is dressed in a suit and one of her mother’s brooches – this one a small arrow piercing a ruby. We are not sure of the condition of her face; it is wrapped in a scarf. Her body has, by and large, maintained its integrity. The mayor makes no sounds.

Haltingly, we move in the water, splitting a path through the ice. The lake is a series of white, silver, and opal striations. The cold roots in our chests and blooms, spreading to the filaments of each lung. The dark fuzz of fir trees seems so far away. These are always the very worst moments, with our mayors. What can we say? What comfort can we offer? We cannot guarantee that she will be treated gently.

Sara Peters

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