In my head, a mental timer ticked – eleven hours fifty-two minutes
A half dozen times over the past two weeks I begged, “Nothing special, please.” And today was no different.
“Why so sad?” she asked, dancing across the kitchen floor, a light hum spilling from her lips. After sixteen years of marriage, she was still stunning, and the tactic of using the hum to drown out my pleas. Well, I’m familiar with that ploy. But unbeknownst to her, I spotted the iconic yellow Post-it notes. And when she wasn’t looking I dug them from the trash. Written in her familiar handwriting, were names, numbers, and a recurrent date. That date was today. So, I knew she was up to something. And who could blame her, it was a special day. It was a day for celebration. “See you tonight,” she said, pushing me out the front door with honey-do-list and a soft peck on the cheek.…
The nurse squeezes a rubber ball that makes the strap around Raymond’s arm tighten more and more. It really hurts. Raymond pushes his lips together so he won’t complain, because complaining is bad heredity. Mother told him that this morning when he complained about the Brilliantine she put in his hair. The gel still smells awful, like dead flowers and Father’s breath during good-night kiss. Mother is determined to win this Fitter Family contest, which is why she made Raymond wear the hair gel and why Raymond must not complain. Mother thinks they lost the competition last year because of Aunt Julie, who is what Mother calls a broad, although she won’t tell Raymond what that means. …
“We need more guns,” Teddy Koala said, standing back from the array before them.
Teddy was the more aggressive of the pair while Rudolph, a year older, was the planner and dreamer. He was the one who insisted he’d once read an article that had identified the brothers as the most feared killing machine in Australia’s notorious Northwest Territory in the last hundred years.
Teddy liked the idea that they were men to be feared. His only concern was that, if the newspapers were so determined to help run them down that they might use an old photo that cast the damaged right side of his face in a poor light, making him look less like a predator and more like a victim.
Rudolph knew Teddy was right. “What exactly are we missing?”…
It looked like large black bird with broken wings. Jeremy kicked it as it lay motionless in the puddle as we stood under a storefront awning waiting for a bus. Ripples puckered out from it. He reached down to pick it up.
“Jeremy, no,” I said, admonishing him as if he were a dog picking up a stick. “It’s dirty,” I added, as way of explanation. He was four. The world was still a mystery to him and these weekly visits to his mom were just a ritual. A tucked in shirt. Sitting at the back of the bus. The gift shop. Ice cream.
“Um-bella,” he said, as I crouched down to get a closer look. He was right. It was a dilapidated umbrella. Mangled from a gust of wind and hastily discarded. I picked it up and tried to open it. The tracking device that allowed the umbrella to glide open was jammed. I shook the umbrella. Jeremy stepped back and covered his face from the sprayed rain droplets. He giggled to himself.
“Stop. Da. Stop.”
I tried to open the damaged umbrella once more. It flapped wildly in my hands as uncooperative as a tethered bird trying to take flight.…
It started with you knocking on the door. Steam filling up the mirror, the air. Stale. Collecting the suds under my armpits and letting the hot water sear my skin. Telling you I’m in here. Taking a shower. I hadn’t locked the door, hadn’t thought to, rubbing shampoo in and whistling Something in the Way. You opened the door, slipped your hand in. Flipped the light off and on, off and on. Epileptic flashes as I reached for the bar of soap, told you to cut it out. You left the light off. I heard the door shut behind you, and the way the faint light filtered in, through the shower curtain, soap in my eyes so I couldn’t see it all the way.…