Preview of Porch Lights
This island is a very singular one. It consists of little else than the sea sand, and is about three miles long. Its breadth at no point exceeds a quarter of a mile. It is separated from the mainland . . .Edgar Allan Poe, "The Gold-Bug"
Meet Jackie McMullen
I WILL TELL YOU THE one thing that I have learned about life in my thirty-something years that is an absolute truth: nothing and no one in this entire world matters more to a sane woman than her children. I have one child, my son, Charlie. Charlie is barely ten years old, and he is the reason I get up in the morning. I thank God for him every night before I go to sleep. When I was stationed in Afghanistan, I slept with a T-shirt of his wrapped around my arm. I did. Not my husband's. My son's. It was the lingering sweet smell of my little boy's skin that got me through the awful nights while rockets were exploding less than a mile away from my post. I would fall asleep praying for Charlie. And, if I had known what would happen, I would have petitioned harder for my husband, Jimmy's, safety in those same prayers. I should've prayed harder for Jimmy.
Now I'm driving south on I-95 while Charlie sleeps, slumped in the seat next to me, and I wonder: what the hell was the matter with Jimmy and me? Why did we think we had the right to be so cavalier about what we did for a living, pretending to be bulletproof and fireproof and thinking nothing could happen to us? Sure. Mean army nurse doing three seven-month tours in a war zoneand Jimmy answering the firehouse alarms, rushing out to save what? The world? No, my Jimmy died trying to save a bunch of low-life crackheads in a filthy, rat-infested tenement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He fell to his death when the floor beneath him collapsed. How do I tell my Charlie to make any sense of that when I can't make sense of it myself?
Ah, Jimmy McMullen, there will never be another man like you. Nope. Not on Earth and not in Heaven. You were one of a kind. Here's to ya, blue eyes, wherever you are. I took a swig from my water bottle.