Sean Ennis ~ A Feature or a Bug

Grace direct­ed me at dawn to get donuts, and it’s like every­one got laid last night, say­ing, “Good morn­ing,” and walk­ing their dogs.  Ah, to be loved, to be learned, to be lurk­ing about. The donuts are so unnecessary–I feel rich buy­ing a dozen–but it’s a good start to a bad day, since Colleen and Connor will be vis­it­ing.  These friends had been flirt­ing with divorce, but then they were in a car acci­dent and a pedes­tri­an was killed. Now they are try­ing again to make their mar­riage work—it was not their fault.

We aren’t mur­der­ers,” Colleen said as they crossed the thresh­old.  They weren’t ele­gant company–Connor espe­cial­ly with his webbed toes and san­dals. “No charges were pressed, remem­ber,” she said. The jay­walk­er was to blame, but this was an unset­tling greet­ing. Grace had said just that morn­ing that she felt, not like a host, but rather, a crash test dummy.

Colleen and Connor had been going to couple’s ther­a­py, and used these sorts of vis­its to try out their new per­spec­tives and tech­niques. Connor, for instance, had jeal­ous rage. Colleen too had the rage, but of a dif­fer­ent sort. They now tell the sto­ry that the acci­dent that killed that young man real­ly brought them back togeth­er, assuaged their rage, and pro­vid­ed insight into the nature of love.   Grace and I were sus­pi­cious. The jaywalker’s teeth had been knocked out of his mouth.

I didn’t cook, or even slice any­thing for our guests. Grace wouldn’t sit. The his­to­ry of our friend­ship with these peo­ple was get­ting fog­gi­er and fog­gi­er.  After sneak­ing away into the kitchen, I said to Grace, “Remind me how we know them.”

There was a time, “Grace said, “when we enjoyed hav­ing drinks with Colleen and Connor. Before they were mar­ried, they were fun and also pleas­ant. We often played triv­ia at the bar, and even went on a beach trip with them once. Connor is a good dancer, and Colleen is a  der­ma­tol­o­gist.  Then you quit drink­ing and were in the hos­pi­tal, and they got mar­ried and resent­ful with  each oth­er. Connor found a love let­ter from anoth­er man, and Colleen didn’t do much to calm him down about it. They were in a ter­ri­ble car acci­dent and some­one lost their life. Now, here they are.”

Is it a fea­ture or a bug of adult friend­ships, their pres­ence? This isn’t the first time they’ve used our liv­ing room as a sort of stage. They did have the effect of mak­ing Grace and I feel perfect.

You know, Connor is build­ing a tiny boat inside of a wine bot­tle,” Colleen said. “Very metic­u­lous work.”

It’s a ship,” Connor said, “But, yes, it takes great care. Did you know Colleen is writ­ing pot­ty now?”

That’s effi­cient,” Grace said. A car’s tires screeched far­ther down the street and the cou­ple flinched.

What do you like about Grace?” Colleen asked. No doubt, this was ther­a­py-speak and I felt, for their own reha­bil­i­ta­tion, I should try to play along.

Grace once threw a meat­loaf off of the back deck into the yard. Her par­ents were over for din­ner and they claimed it was too salty. We had to order pizza.”

Larry Young was the name of the deceased pedes­tri­an. He had not been drunk—just care­less try­ing to cross the street between two cars.  Colleen and Connor now had the nerve to believe he sac­ri­ficed him­self for the health of their mar­riage, and it made me uncom­fort­able. If Grace was right about our pre­vi­ous friend­ship with these peo­ple, I just could not recall it.

Another thing I like about Grace,” I said, “is that she always texts me when she’s get­ting a pedi­cure. Like, she’s at her most com­fort­able and still thinks of me. I also like the way she smells in the morning.”

Colleen and Connor had stopped play­ing along. They got up from the couch.

He,” Grace said, “always writes in blue ink? Isn’t that cute? And he nev­er exer­cis­es or com­plains about not exer­cis­ing. And he won­ders if every rock he finds is a meteorite.”

They were creep­ing clos­er to the door, gath­er­ing their things, their new car throb­bing in the dri­ve­way. I still had a kind of amne­sia. Even their names were escap­ing me.


Sean Ennis is the author of Chase Us: Stories (Little A) and his fic­tion has recent;y appeared in Maudlin House, Pithead Chapel, Rejection Letters and Wigleaf. More of his work can be found at