“Six Months” by Maria Thomas
February 2, 2022 by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright
I’ve been lucky enough to read Maria’s work for over a decade. When I first read “Six Months" (A Public Space No. 30), it was no surprise to be greeted with a pleasant familiarity, a meticulous dose of humor, and a painful gut-punch. The story’s fledgling gesture is to introduce the final stroke of a conversation long underway. Liesel is “done.” Liesel is ill. Liesel will go home alone to Germany to die. After all, “Dying isn't much fun, you know?”
The story flees forward from there, tracing Mona’s aftermath of abandonment. Time begins to operate in peculiar ways. Transitions between scenes are dispensed with. Mona confesses to having trouble “making the connections.” A video call with her mother, in Port Antonio, morphs without comment into brunch in Peckham. The story’s very ligaments, its connective tissue, breaks down—this, in a story about a woman grieving the breakdown of a treasured body.
George, a cat with a suicide drive, whose care Mona is dubiously tasked with, emerges as Mona’s most tethered reality. She suspects other physical material of being figments of her imagination, then says, “There was definitely George, though.” And there is. At one point, the cat acquires “an elasticated red ribbon, the kind of Moulin Rouge bordello choker found on a Lindt Easter bunny.” Maria’s instinct for Mona’s eccentricity is electric.
In the space of the story, both George and Liesel are trying to die. Liesel succeeds in doing so but nonetheless remains onstage; Mona can’t let her go. She is determined to keep the cat alive, too—until the story’s end. It has sometimes been remarked that a survivor can view death as a desertion. In our editorial conversations, Maria and I asked: what is Mona's unfinished business? A question a writer might feel pressured to resolve. But Maria knew her character too well. Mona’s business will be unfinished for a long time. In this story and maybe the next, she won't find resolution. This was Maria’s intuition and, lucky for the readers, the story’s final word.
You can read "Six Months" by Maria Thomas here.