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 Forward, New Sudden Fiction, Ploughshares, SmokeLong Quarterly, and others. She lives in Pittsburgh.