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Conclusion of “The Fault”

bones faultWhen he got home, she wasn’t there yet. Because this never happened, he assumed she’d gotten an angry phone call from Chelsea, who would have told her everything in such a way that he would be the stereotypically chauvinistic sex fiend. He would be unable to wait to explain himself or defend himself against her accusations and threats. So, he called her.

That’s when he heard her phone vibrating on the counter, right next to a half-emptied glass of room-temperature orange juice that had been left there for, he guessed, about nine hours and thirty-some-odd minutes.

He checked the phone, and saw that no one had called her all day except for him.

Draining the glass, he proceeded to corral the rest of the unwashed breakfast dishes to the sink. He’d only turned on the tap when he heard the door open and the jingling of her keys banging on the side of her thigh.

“You’re home early,” she said, before he could greet her.

“You’re home late—well, later.”

“I’m taking cues from you.”

She pushed past him to the refrigerator with her lunch bag and purse still hanging from her arm. Scanning the contents of the refrigerator, she reminded him that they were out of milk and shut the door.

“Were you in a hurry this morning?”

She wasn’t paying attention, so he repeated the question, this time with more concerned, projecting so she could hear him over the clanking of the dishes he was stacking.

“Hm?”

Again, he repeated the question.

“Oh, no. I mean, I guess. I didn’t sleep much, so I was slow starting.”

“Oh.”

“Thanks for doing the dishes, by the way. I have no desire to do anything tonight. I’m thinking of skipping out on the art center, too.”

“Wow. Already?”

“I’m not quitting. I just need to regroup. I can’t start out running on low. I don’t know. I am exhausted.”

He paused, and let go of his question about her suddenly renewed interest in ballet, not because he knew the answer but because he thought of another question.

“Hey, speaking of dishes, have you seen my chip bowl? I couldn’t find it the other day.”

“It was broken.”

“What do you mean, ‘It was broken’? You mean you broke it.” Continue reading “Conclusion of “The Fault””

Communion from “The Fault”

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The confusion of cell phone alarms and plug-in clocks battling each other with beeps and MIDI ringtones woke them five hours later. She kicked off the duvet, jumping up to make coffee.

While he showered, she cooked an egg for herself, and pulled out a box of cereal out for him, then poured a glass of orange juice for herself. They traded places in the bathroom as soon as he walked out. When he entered the kitchen, he realized that she hadn’t set out the bowl, spoon, or milk. Yesterday she kissed him, last night they’d had sex, and today, she forgot to leave his food on the counter. Just when he thought he was beginning to read her again, she would forget things that had been routine for the past several years that even though they were mundane, foregoing them seemed like sacrilege. It was childish, he knew, to expect such service to continue forever, but it seemed that she had been purposeful—defiant, even—in doing something so incompletely that was for him.

He could only remember one other morning when she had forgotten breakfast. They were late for work and had run from their tiny apartment down the stairs because they realized it was nearly eight, and though they didn’t know much about the area, they knew the difference between the printed and the actual train schedule: what should take an hour would always take more. Having smoothly pressed pants took precedence over a healthy first meal of the day. To remedy the omission, as they were speed walking to the bus stop that drove them to the train, she insisted that he wait just a minute while she exchanged a handful of quarters for a cup of coffee poured into a Styrofoam cup and a huge, sticky glazed doughnut to a nearby vendor.

Grinning, she hustled to keep up with him and balanced the pastry atop the cup. They barely caught the bus but were lucky to find a seat open. She took the window seat, jamming her tote between her legs and the wall to free her hands for distributing the elements. The edible lid kept most of the coffee from sloshing out, but the coffee soaked the underside of the doughnut so much that by the time they could eat it, it had half-dissolved. Giving him their cup to hold, she broke their bread in haste, dividing it equally as possible. While he sipped the burnt and already chilling coffee, she licked the glaze from her fingers. They took turns passing the coffee between them, both commenting on how bad it was, yet she insisted it was “romantic” to eat breakfast on the bus. He agreed with her, and reached into her space, grabbing for the remaining soggy bit of doughnut that she held in her right hand. Immediately, she popped it in her mouth and swallowed it, trying to keep from snorting it while she laughed at her victory and their play.

Continue reading “Communion from “The Fault””

When her bones crack, from “The Fault”

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Photo by Jimmy Bay

That evening she was wearing her tights again, but this time she skipped dinner to begin exercising at the studio. She thought she’d leave the house before he returned, but that day, he didn’t come home late. Just as she was lacing her tennis shoes, the loud rubbery smack of the front door frame insulation startled her.

The kitchen wall clock read five forty-five.

“You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?” he said, as he reached to grab her hair that was wound into the fist–bun again.

She batted at his hand, insisting that he was “messing it up.”

“I’m growing out my bangs, so it took forever just to get it all up, okay?”

Mark smiled and apologized for his junior high flirting that still crept into their interactions from time to time. Although he knew it was more annoying than affirming, it was a remnant of their dating days when she learned that he wasn’t really all that funny at all—just charming and thoughtful in the same way small sons can be when they’ve been told that they’re good. It was that brand of corniness that was somehow simultaneously boyish and paternal that was occasionally endearing but never sexy.

She resumed tying her shoes.

“You’re still going to leave?”

When she didn’t answer, he offered to make dinner.

“Maybe we could watch a movie or I’ll rub your back.”

This sudden interest surprised her, so she hesitated in collecting her bag and keys. Her cheeks colored when she observed his obvious intent, but it drained when she looked at him. He tried again. Continue reading “When her bones crack, from “The Fault””

Morning scene from “The Fault”

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Photo by Wang Ward

Morning came too quickly for both of them. He had to meet with his boss to discuss the agenda for the all-company meeting taking place that afternoon, and she didn’t say what was causing her to hurry. Her lunch was already sitting out on the counter with the brown paper curled forward like a grade-schooler’s lunch.

All it needs is her name written on it with permanent marker.

When she wasn’t looking, he scrawled it across the side opposite the fold, and then he busied himself with pouring cereal. He hoped she would notice the decoration when she picked it up and headed out the door, but she forgot the bag altogether. He ran down the stairs after her to give it to her.

“Have fun at school, dear!” he said, handing her the bag with her name facing her.

She blushed her thanks.

“You are the biggest nerd. I’ve got to go!”

Before opening her car door, she surprised him with a light kiss on the mouth. Then, she threw her stuff and herself into the vehicle and drove away. He watched until she turned from their driveway, and then he walked in to get his things because he was going to be late.

He was shocked, but he told himself that the kiss meant nothing. It was just routine, a goodbye given upon departure perfunctorily, not passionately.  Continue reading “Morning scene from “The Fault””

“The Fault,” contd.

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Photo by Quin Stevenson

The dish had shattered into such tiny fractures that there seemed to be blue dust all over the kitchen floor and spread to the adjacent living room carpet.

On her hands and knees, collecting the little missiles, she thought about how maybe this wasn’t entirely her fault. After all, she’d been working more too. She’d been the one to say they should wait a few more years to have kids. Maybe he saw that as her pulling back. No kids after seven years when you’re perfectly healthy means that you don’t find the prospect of multiplication romantic.

They were two bodies of water unmoving, stagnated into one, isolated lonely gulf. Even though she liked the image, she began to see other options. She asked herself if maybe their marriage were like land — a land formed on a fault, just waiting for the plates to shift enough so that something would finally break.

I am nothing but his fault, she thought.

As she gathered the pieces of broken glass in her cupped hand, some of the shards splintered into her palm, enough to draw pinpricks of blood smaller than tear sheet perforations. She dusted the remaining pieces into the sink and turned on the garbage disposal.

Now the eggs were overdone and a green-gray halo had formed around the chalky yolks.

Tuna salad on rye with tomatoes, though filling, wasn’t too heavy with only an hour of down time before working out.

When he finally came home, he didn’t look tired, and he didn’t make any excuses. Instead, he hung up his navy blazer and immediately asked her if there was any dinner left before he’d removed his Oxfords. Continue reading ““The Fault,” contd.”

The Sun and His Pants

Photo by Jennifer Aldrich

Now the sun had heard from the singing stars about how his cousin the moon had asked her mother to make her a gown and had been refused. Her mother warned her that there was nothing to fit her figure. For when she was new, the moon was less than a tinder, and when she was full, she was a great shining globe in the sky. So the moon had been hanging in the sky naked and bright throughout all time, exposed every night by the sun’s laughing light.

One night after taking particular joy in embarrassing his kin, the sun decided to see his father, the master tailor, about getting himself a good pair of trousers—just to remind the poor girl of her evanescence. When he asked his father about being fitted for some pants, his father shook his head: “You’re in no better spot than the moon. Though you’re constant, you burn up everything that gets close to you.”

For a while, I wrote fables and fairy tales as a way to unwind. Most, like this one, came to me in dreams. Sometimes I was awake, and sometimes I wasn’t.

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