Robert Scotellaro ~ Three Entries from a Somnambulist’s Dictionary


 The road trip, they agree, is a last chance.  They haven’t made love in months, main­ly because he drags him­self in like a sack of lead fish­ing weights and plugs, first thing, into cable news.  Plugs him­self in: brain and breath, and appar­ent­ly, she con­cludes: penis (stem to stern as well) and is lost to her.

When she decides to sharp­en every knife they own with deter­mined swipes, back and forth against the chef’s steel (sit­ting at the din­ing room table across from him) he unplugs.  Tells her he’s an expert in body lan­guage and wants to know if there’s any­thing wrong.  She is still young-ish and he is still young-ish, and she is keen to that fact.  She is wear­ing a sun­dress with a flo­ral print and takes her yoga-sup­ple body and does a head­stand against the wall.  Her dress falls down over her face.  She says through sev­er­al tulips: “Okay, expert, what lan­guage am I speak­ing now?”



Traveling through California they find an away-from-it-all motel with a hot tub and swim­ming pool sit­u­at­ed in an amphithe­ater of high pines.  They are putting on their bathing suits when the room begins to shake a bit.  It is their first earth­quake expe­ri­ence, and they stand root­ed as a print of a lake in moon­light tilts on the wall and a Bible on the night­stand slides some.  He grabs her hand (with the bathing suit still around his knees) and hops to the bed and they slip under it.  The earth­quake is a small one, but they remain there.   After a time of still­ness, they cre­ate their own earth­quake amid the dust bunnies.

As they lie there in the dark, she tells him how (after her father died) she found an old shoe­box of his filled with fric­tion cars.  How he was a stern man and pic­tur­ing him young and play­ful was alien to her.  She told him how she brushed the back wheels again and again against his hard­wood floor and watched them, one by one, crash into the walls, and for the first time since he passed, she wept.  He com­forts her and they nes­tle.  He shares how he hates his work.  All those num­bers riotous to him: the emails and cas­es on the com­put­er blur­ring at times.  Tells her how there are lives rep­re­sent­ed in those num­bers in an avalanche they will nev­er dig out of.  “Technology has made us slaves to it,” he says, and how he often longs for a sim­pler time, when the lat­est tech­nol­o­gy was fire.  He smiles.  She can­not see it, but feels it.  “You know, like smoke sig­nals you saw from a hill­top, or a drum beat­ing out a mes­sage in the jun­gle, like in an old Tarzan movie.”  She laughs.  They both do.  She sees him in the dark clear­er than she ever has.


They dri­ve to Washington State, are in a rus­tic lodge bar with elk heads on the walls.  They are at a table, a bit drunk, and the sub­ject comes up again about them hav­ing a child via a sur­ro­gate.  She is infer­tile and they have both, long ago, ruled out adop­tion.  They are finan­cial­ly secure and young enough to par­ent.  The notion of har­vest­ing his sperm and impreg­nat­ing a sur­ro­gate has at times passed by them only as a zephyr.  Now it is a music in the wind chimes they both hear.  He asks if his sperm being used in that way, grow­ing in some­one else, would be okay with her.  She nods that it would.  “Very much so,” she tell him.  Then she looks up at one of the elk heads above him on the wall.

I have a con­fes­sion,” she tells him.  “For the last half hour or so, I’ve had this strong, and I mean strong urge to slip out of my panties under this table and toss them onto those antlers.”  He fol­lows her eyes, turns back.  He looks at her for a moment, then laughs hard and long.  Her expres­sion doesn’t change.  After he guz­zles some stout, he pats her thigh like a dog under a table.  There is a TV on behind the bar tuned to a cable news sta­tion.  She watch­es as he turns to watch it, to watch it, to watch it.  Then (smeared with a sense of fol­ly) she gazes up at that elk’s head.  Is drawn to those star­tled glass eyes peer­ing back at her.


Robert Scotellaro’s work has been includ­ed in W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, NANO Fiction, Gargoyle, Matter Press, Best Small Fictions 2016, 2017, Best Microfiction 2020, and oth­ers. He is the author of sev­en lit­er­ary chap­books, sev­er­al books for chil­dren, and five flash and micro sto­ry col­lec­tions. He was the win­ner of Zone 3’s Rainmaker Award in Poetry and the Blue Light Book Award for his fic­tion. He has, along with James Thomas, co-edit­ed New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, pub­lished by W.W. Norton & Co. Robert is one of the found­ing donors to The Ransom Flash Fiction Collection at the University of Texas, Austin. Visit him at