... a tiny balloon popped by an invisible, insistent foot. Clinking. The nail polish bottle dripped on the floor, but I
crack….,” she whispers. A little girl in front of her is wearing orange flip flops that snap back against her blackening heels. The girl grasps her mother’s hand and breaks into a skip. It will all end in disappointment and heartbreak, she thinks.
purple forget-me-nots by the time summer came. Of course, it was all over by then. She wonders if that girl still lives there, if she ever looks outside her window and thinks about Joe.
for Carl, for Joe, before sealing it off with a handful of mud. The stone she finds is smooth and perfectly oval. It stands proudly like a trophy.
Stretched out on the wood floor, I watched my freshly painted-on nail polish clump itself into a little bubble, like a it was made from the smallest, brightest pink machine-bought gumball, only thicker and smelling of fresh acetone. It expanded itself until it burst, a tiny balloon popped by an invisible, insistent foot. Clinking. The nail polish bottle dripped on the floor, but I let it spill, scorching the wood’s shine to a grayish, frayed purple. “And I only stopped to help because she screamed,” Dad said. “Okay,” I said, already picking off most of the pink nail polish. The little shriveled bits of rolled-up paint were sticking to my fingers, like I’d just rubbed my eyes and come up with neon-colored sleep. “Goddamned worst thing I’ve ever heard,” he said. “I’d hit up little scrawny guys before. Never a girl.” “What a saint you were,” I said. “Shut up,” he said, and started talking shit about his buddy Jones, who had gotten married to “an ugly little bitch” after they got back from ‘Nam. Once he was done with that, the last thing he said before he fell asleep was, “I saw her face before I hit her up, you know. Prettiest thing. I didn’t think she could scream like that.”
I call my fiancée, tell her of the turbulence. “Oh, you poor thing,” she says. “I frikkin hate when that happens.”
Her father was the first one to ever call her a slut. Beth was fourteen and had spent most of the hot summer day at the beach with the new boy she just met, the red-haired and freckled Tommy O’Neil. His mom worked at the local diner and he was there for the whole summer, roaming the beach, playing and soaking up the sun. She had never seen skin so bronze or hair so red. The fifteen year-old was like a miniature god, his body perfect. There was something about him that was so different from the boys she knew at school; not just the way he looked, but the playful way he talked and teased. As the hot sun arced across the sky, Beth and Tommy had built sand castles, searched for shells and let the tide roll up onto their feet. They went to the diner where Tommy’s mom, a young and pretty brunette, fed them hot dogs and soda. They spent the afternoon playing hide and seek, running amid the umbrellas, changing tents and restrooms. It was one of the longest, most enjoyable days of her life, and when she ran to tell her father about the newfound friend he told her that she was a slut.
She woke to find herself back in the hotel room with Vic. He was talking in his usual paced manner.
shadowed by the light, gone in a moment, in a blink. The next night, the same, her face blank and turned towards Dorothy’s house.
spouting evidence of the tiger conspiracy. The man had made the mistake of asking about Tim’s recent work and the renovations he’d heard about in their house, and while the other guests stared down at their plates of fried chicken and fruit salad, Tim had listed his compiled evidence and connected prominent politicians, generals, actors, and celebrities into a vast, tigerrelated web. By the time that he had ramped himself up into a near shout, the hostess had asked them to leave, and on the way home Dorothy made Tim pull the car over and held him while he shook with fury and conviction. “Nobody ever listens to me. Never.”
all I wanted to do was have a relaxing evening, for once, with my wife, but you ruined it! You did! You!” stomped down into the basement. She slept on the couch that night, and in the morning, after he left for work, drove to her doctor’s office.
“Where did you get that!” she screamed. “You’re going through my garbage? Who told you?” “It’s my garbage too! It’s our garbage.” I forced a chuckle. She wasn’t buying it. “Oh my God. You’re just like dad! You’re on their side, aren’t you? They got to you.” “Aviva, no one got to me. No one’s trying to get you. We all just want to help you. These pills will help you. You have to give them a try.” “You want to change my brain. I will not change my brain with that poison.” “Aviva, you have to take them.” I pulled out the new bottle. “Dr. Stein agrees.” “You called my shrink? You’re going behind my back? You’re all in cahoots!”
His body tills the soil and the tulips tremble and his limp legs reap roses. The petunias cry, you’re killing us. But the old man can’t hear for his ears have stopped working. Yet, he hears a voice within his head—I’m getting out of here; this is madness, the voice says. The old man’s bald head lifts open like a tomato soup can and red and blue veined vines reach out, curling around his ears and winding itself out like a tow winch. The brain rolls down his face and falls into the soil of bluegill and spare change. It rolls out of the garden, stops to brush off its feet on the welcome mat, and walks into the living room. It pours itself a glass of water, takes two yellow aspirin, grabs the old man’s hat and coat, and walks out the front door, leaving the door open. The old man rests motionless in the garden. The man in the moon asks the morning dew to shut and kiss his eyelids.