Death Rattle

A photo of a cemetery. In the foreground are three headstones reading "Howell" and two reading "De Beauchamp." Two tall trees stand in the background, blocking the light of a setting sun.

Mortician Neil Aldridge is used to grief, but he struggles to comfort his wife, Anna, who’s reeling from multiple miscarriages. Teaching elementary school art has paid for their Long Island home and fertility treatments, but it has transformed what Anna once loved (children and art) into a mockery of her existence. When their dreams of a comfortable life and a family seem furthest away, Anna suggests they pause IVF. Neil agrees, believing the decision will alleviate Anna’s anguish—until she leaves for work one day and doesn’t come home.

Neil fears the worst until Anna returns three days later, but his nightmares about her disappearance are far from over. He can’t decide what’s worst—the fact that Anna’s pregnant again despite their intentions, that she went to see her estranged, fiery best friend, Steph, a woman whose enduring love for and avid support of Anna and her art has jeopardized their marriage before—or the fact that Anna left home with suicidal intentions.

When a heated fight between the women reignites old fears that Steph’s feelings aren’t as unrequited as Anna has always insisted, Neil must find a way to rescue Anna’s sense of purpose—or risk losing her and their unborn child for good.

DEATH RATTLE, complete at 90,000 words, is a work of contemporary literary fiction that explores family creation, the shattered American Dream, reproductive rights, and lives worth living. The tanglings of grief, guilt, fate, and faith of Dead to Me meets the irreverence and darkness of Six Feet Under. Currently querying agents.

Kristen Roedel is working toward her Ph.D. in American literature at Stony Brook University, and she teaches creative writing at St. Joseph’s University. She is a native Long Island lesbian, who will never know what it’s like to have biological children with her wife. Two excerpts from this novel have appeared in The Writing Disorder and Litbreak Magazine.

Can’t wait for publication? Check out these DEATH RATTLE excerpts today:

“DEATH RATTLE: Chapter 1”

“Neil Aldridge, Sr.”

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