The Night Cindy Died

The Night Cindy Died

by Brandon Jenkins

The night Cindy died I was in the laundry room. The loud, drumming motor of the dryer concealed the cries of my mother and older sister.

They called us the triplets even though we were each several years apart. Deborah was the oldest and Cindy was the youngest. We were all brunette and about the same height and body type.

I leaned sideways with one elbow on top of the rumbling dryer and thumbed my way through a fashion magazine. I dog-eared the pages I thought Cindy and Deborah would like since we had the same tastes in nearly everything. The three of us shared dresses, jeans, shoes and even on one occasion, a boyfriend—although we never talked about that. I found a pair of black snow boots which would be perfect for Cindy’s upcoming ski trip and I could use them when she got back. I didn’t know it then but while I was highlighting pictures of gloves and ski hats that matched those boots, my mother and Deborah were frantically trying resuscitate my younger sister.

I guess she had swallowed a fistful of pills for depression, anxiety and whatever else it was she took for an affliction that went completely unnoticed by the rest of us. Her body lay at the foot of her bed with her eyes shut and mouth hung wide open. My mother, kneeling down beside her, slapped her cheeks between sporadic attempts at CPR.

I took the yellow highlighter and jotted down notes in the margin of the page with the snow boots. Congratulations! Don’t scuff these up too bad. I included the mandatory semicolon next to the right parenthesis.

Deborah was standing in the corner of Cindy’s bedroom screaming into her cell phone. “She’s not responding! She looks dead! She looks dead!”

I turned the page and saw a spitting image of Cindy and her fiance looking back at me. The couple was standing in the snow holding a baby sheathed in heavy winter clothes. I scribbled, You and Bill next year! Ha ha! I turned the page.

“She’s dead!” My mother cried and cradled her daughter’s head into her her bosom. “My Cindy is dead!”

The ding of the alarm brought the sound of the rumbling dryer to an end and two separate high-pitched screams hung in the air from the other side of the house. I dropped the magazine and sprinted out of the laundry room. I was out of breath by the time I made it to Cindy’s bedroom. I didn’t say anything, but only looked at my mother. She was holding Cindy on the bed. My eyes immediately went to my older sister standing in front of the window. She dropped her phone and pulled at the hair on both sides of her head. Black mascara tears stretched down to her jaw.

I walked over to the bed and took a seat next to my mother who was still rocking back and forth with Cindy’s body between her large, flabby arms.

None of us said a word until the ambulance arrived.

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Brandon Jenkins
Brandon Jenkins is a freelance writer and editor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Diego State University and currently resides in Cedar Rapids, IA with his American bulldog and pit bull. Find him on twitter @b_m_jenkins and at storiesfromneptune.blogspot..

6 thoughts on “The Night Cindy Died

  1. A grimly powerful tale. It stirs a deep sense of loss. The interleaving of events in the laundry and in the bedroom works surprisingly well. A suggestion: these lines c/b tightened:

    “I didn’t say anything, but only looked at my mother. She was holding Cindy on the bed. My eyes immediately went to my older sister standing in front of the window. She dropped her phone and pulled at the hair on both sides of her head. Black mascara tears stretched down to her jaw.”

    Maybe:

    “My mother was holding Cindy on the bed. My sister, standing in front of the window, dropped her phone… down to her jaw.”

    Then,

    “I sat down next to my mother….large flabby arms.”

    Your story not mine, of course, but I think much of its power comes from its spare compactness. AGB

  2. Powerful. The juxtapositioning of the laundry and the death worked to heighten the tension really well. A complete vignette on unexpected loss. Well done.

  3. Great tale. One thing; I wasn’t convinced the screams could not be heard – or is that intentional?

  4. This story was based on a very good idea. It was also well-written, and as Digennaro said above, the juxtaposing of the two locations in one house was excellent. One problem I had: the death was telegraphed to the reader by the title of the piece. Knowing that Cindy had died took away the suspense a story like this might profit by. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it.

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