She watched the Medical Examiner's stethoscope move like a silver moon over the boy's bloated ivory chest. What do we listen for? eternity? echoes of water? all the lost sounds he never heard? a message from Mars? It was merely a reflex gesture or perhaps, she considered, a first step toward establishing time of death. From inside her house, ironically, the BBC Foreign Service broadcast the Kintertotenlieder. None of the police or firemen, nor the Medical Examiner, gave any side of recognizing the Mahler and so perhaps it wasn't ironic but simply elegiac.
She had made the same gestures, moon across soft ivory, in her case somewhat irrationally assuring herself there were no signs of life before calling the authorities. Then until the sirens arrived she went back in and held the sobbing Samantha.
What use were sirens? What use were the red and blue lights alternately painting the water? What use were lieder? What use doctors? What could we read in ivory? in air? in water? in the warm hollows of our flesh?
She watched an ivory moon move over a silver sky. Inside the house her daughter saw death again. Its face was pale as a slice of icicle radish, cold as creek water, soft as the down of a swan. It held her gently as she sobbed and impregnated her dreams.
Inside the house her phone lay on a pillow buzzing insistently with each unanswered ring at her lover's apartment. She had rung his private number after calling the police and when there was no answer she had left it off the hook and ringing. There was no machine there, few people had this number. She imagined that it might ring eternally, a broadcast into the void, like signals from a satellite moving beyond the edge of our galaxy into empty space and seeking signs of life.
With her own phone tied up now she knew no one could reach her directly. There was only the service and the beeper, itself a satellite of a sort, on her belt. She thought briefly of tossing it away, far out into the black water where snapping turtles dwelt and bullheads prowled the mucky bottoms. Then she thought of tucking it within her, deep in some orifice like a perverse prosthetic, a fetus of possibility, a drowning child.
Instead she held it to her cheek and cried.