Ethel’s Pot Belly
A beguiling, hat-wearing woman of forty, Ethel once liked the way she could appear skinny or roly-poly to other women, depending on how hostile they seemed. The slope of Ethel’s pot belly was so flexible she could easily hide it inside designer sports girdles.
Ethel’s IQ was so high that she bumped into walls. Often distracted by inventions and various mathematical theories, she knocked over china and bashed into small children.
Ethel dumped her worries about her personal life on her women friends who likewise hid their bellies.
Ethel needed a new set of wheels to lighten things up. Nothing seemed promising now. Her Buick had finally died, as had her most promising suitor, Hubert Linzer, last Easter. Ethel was still seeing a bereavement therapist. She had an aversion to holidays in general, and nothing surprised her about disasters on or around all of them. But this one, with Hubert, a man she almost cared for, dying right next to her. This really sucked.
Ethel and Hubert had been out on their sixth date dancing to live music over at The Ribbon that Saturday night before Easter. The Asthmatic Puffs, a local band everyone raved about, were in top form. This was to be their second whole night spent together.
That night, after undressing, Hubert left the lights on and closed the blinds. “My little Easter chick,” he said, fondly. Hubert moistened his lips as he approached Ethel, hungry for her. She was lounging naked and unencumbered on her floral-print divan.
Hubert stood staring down at Ethel’s naked splendor with the caring face of an apothecary. Minutes later though, his expression changed into a gauzy glare. He stood staring at her pot belly as though it were a snake or a strange breed of wild dog. Some weird Rorschach test, Ethel’s belly appeared different to every man who loved her.
“Your belly has one creepy eye socket!” Hubert gasped.
“A p…p… peephole!”
Hubert, she found out too late, had a fatal heart condition. “He would have died anyway,” the handsome bereavement therapist said, smiling kindly at Ethel’s belly, thinking that it looked delicious, like his late mother’s yorkshire puddings.
It seemed made of satin at first, as do shiny widows. Once it had you in its tentacles, only then did one realize it hated its own molecules, sat on them to make them bleed, sat on them until they screamed “We are…er… your own molecules, bitch!”
It lived to:
- devour villagers with small dreams
- watch reruns of House while pulling wings off fireflies
Many believed it decided to create a cake of nutrasweet and arsenic for every husband. Nobody was sure if it really had “husbands,” but the villagers of Lucklorn like to imagine so, it was fun!
To imagine how it blinded the husband while massaging him with love-foam, perking him up a bit first (in the place where he had long been shrivelled) then swapping the activity for cake. Beads of sweat may have blushed on a husband’s brow as his man-muscle curled like a Fiddlehead fern. He may have screamed, “I am not a firefly!”
As its acclaim grew, tourists piled in, and local lightening bugs and smart men (real scientists) disappeared. The villagers both hated and loved this myth. Some craved the thrill of witnessing it in the throws of staged, painful non-passion. They believe it all happens overnight. Therefore, tourists do not nap or make daisy chains. They stay alert to see it in true form..
Sex and Lemongrass
One thing I look forward to, every afternoon, is a lemon grass soda. Nobody believes there is such a soda, so I don’t talk about it. There is only one store that still sells them, absurdly expensive.
While enjoying my soda, I say to Pearl, “I find sex to be incredibly hard to talk about.”
Pearl is a rat.
Pearl pees on my shirts after too much holding, but she is very easy going.
I try talking to my mother. “Mom I still find sex to be incredibly hard to talk about.” She has been dead for some time, and she agrees.
Something about sex in my marriage does not work anymore. It has to do with smelling money. Money has an odor. An odor that makes my husband feel things are alright. An odor which to him means “yay”.
His is so wealthy, money is all over the floor, it falls out of his pockets and I sometimes slip on it. He makes a path of twenty-dollar bills that lead to the kitchen and out the door to the tree underneath where our dog is buried.
The fellow I most ferociously want to mate with is nearly homeless, can’t afford heat, and doesn’t want me that way (at all).
I tell him this:
I’m married though my husband has lost his brain and body in the war and his wounds make him hard to kiss and cuddle with.
The man is not interested in my sense of humor, but he calls me “amusing”.
If I am being truthful, there is more than one homeless guy I have wanted.
Meg Pokrass is the author of 8 flash collections. Her work was recently selected to appear in The Best Small Fictions, 2022, and will be included in Flash Fiction America (W. W. Norton & Co., 2023).