Valerie Fox ~ An episode between houses and jobs

Maybe still in the recov­ery room, I hear my Nana say, it’s okay hon­ey, there are plen­ty of oth­er fish in the sea.

Later, not in the recov­ery room, I’m feel­ing for­mal, a lit­tle hun­gry. So Swoon and I decide to go out for a fan­cy oys­ter din­ner. We cel­e­brate our blues. I like to pay, but Swoon wants to pay too, so in the end, he pays for us both.

Swoon’s my man part of me, a for­ev­er part of me, too. He’s always run­ning away from me when I glance away. When I glance back there’s a shape not quite coher­ing with the oth­er shapes. Like a paint­ing over a paint­ing. Except in this case, it’s more like an acci­dent of col­ors and angles.

We draw straws to see who will get the good binoc­u­lars. I lose. I’m okay with that. I always for­get to use them any­way, or for­get to take them for when I might need them, say, for bird-watch­ing, or to spy. Is that a new car?

Or, I have them with me when I hard­ly need them, like when I’m play­ing check­ers (with Nana) or just lis­ten­ing to the radio or check­ing my phone messages.

Those well-meant words, the oth­er fish, are swim­ming back, again.

The next day, Swoon and I go ahead and start board­ing our Greyhound bus­es. Swoon’s is going north, mine is going west. The plan is to recon­vene in exact­ly forty days and then compare.

We are more like snails than sci­en­tists, though. We nev­er get all that far away from each oth­er. Swoon has a cooked look, liv­ery, a smell I want to escape. We can throw a stone at each oth­er we are still so close.

Forty days go by and forty nights. When we meet again, Swoon and I have to decide about trad­ing in our look­ing devices and our every night piz­za for a qui­et life. It will be the rust belt (my famil­iar belt).

Back in the hos­pi­tal, it’s one of St. Francis’s, they let me keep a pet. I guess it means I have to be here for a while longer. Just a sim­ple pro­ce­dure, I’m okay. I have a win­dow and keep search­ing for my man. I see a child look­ing up, hum­ming, knowing.


Valerie Fox’s books include The Rorschach FactoryThe Glass Book, and Insomniatic. She’s pub­lished or has work com­ing out in Best Small Fictions, The Café Irreal, Flash, Cleaver, Juked, New Flash Fiction Review, The Cabinet of Heed, Hanging Loose, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Ellipsis Zine and oth­er jour­nals. A sto­ry of hers appears in The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings. She teach­es at Drexel University in Philadelphia.