Sherrie Flick ~ Chest Out

Words string out like clothes­line along each page as Ellen reads in the yard. Thoughts sweep in like tides as she turns each page. She has ques­tions, and they have led her out­side into the ear­ly evening sun.

The drugs in the draw­er. The dirty sock in the car. The strange drawl­ing phone mes­sage on their machine. Ellen has tak­en on the need to observe her home from afar, the dog at her side. After a while, the dog sighs, then wan­ders off to gnaw a stick.

Ellen day­dreams of dust­ing for fin­ger­prints, as she rubs a blade of grass, tips her head up to the com­ing dusk. Cool air skirts under­neath the hot. She set­tled her thighs in the met­al chair as the light turns sil­ver-gray.

Jack’s truck door slams, and he ram­bles up the walk, snakes toward the front door. She can see it all from her van­tage point, slight­ly ele­vat­ed in the sloped back yard. Their front door opens, clos­es.

Jack will make his way through the house. Glance at the stack of dirty dish­es, push his hand through his hair. He’ll strip naked—probably right there in the kitchen, a new thing, walk­ing naked through the house. It makes Ellen think of kings, of courts and jesters. Chest out, penis sway­ing. Jack might pour a drink, read the paper, do the dishes—anything—naked.

She hears the show­er start up. The radio turned to low. The dog’s ears perk. He bangs his tail again­st the ground, runs to the back screen door, looks expec­tant­ly at the dark with­in.

By the time Jack makes it out to the yard pitch black has tum­bled in. Ellen lets the mos­qui­toes set­tle upon her, rise and set­tle again. A light glows—a tiny speck from the house’s inte­ri­or.

When they met Jack and Ellen sparked like flint. Eyes lit up at the par­ty, then the bar, then walk­ing hand in hand to break­fast in the cool morn­ing air. Everything slid togeth­er and fit right to size. That day, they looked in unison at the bird on the wire, the plate glass dis­play win­dow, the line of park­ing meters that stretched to infinity—a line of met­al heads nod­ding along block after block. Ellen leaned her head into his shoul­der; Jack cupped her waist. She took the bait.

And it isn’t his fault so much as his des­tiny to push every­thing away, to work too hard and drink too hard. To fight some­times, late at night at the bar. He works and works and works until he los­es sight of him­self and makes his way home to her.

~

Sherrie Flick is the author of the nov­el Reconsidering Happiness, the flash fic­tion chap­book I Call This Flirting, and the short sto­ry col­lec­tion Whiskey, Etc. Her flash fic­tion has appeared in many antholo­gies and jour­nals, includ­ing Flash Fiction ForwardNew Sudden FictionPloughsharesSmokeLong Quarterly, and oth­ers. She lives in Pittsburgh.