I THINK THE DOORBELL RANG and I wonder how long ago that was and how long I’ve been awake. Days? Weeks? Minutes? Did I just wake up? I turn on the light next to my bed, sit up, and rub the sleep—no, not sleep—the nothing out of my eyes. I do it like a habit, like it helps, like I remember what sleep felt like, what being anything but tired felt like. Still fully dressed on top of my bedding, I grab my gun off the nightstand and walk downstairs.
The doorbell rings again, if it wasn’t real before it is now. All the lights off, I pretend I see out the peephole. It’s either very late or very early and there’s someone there, a shadow, but who and why? Feeling like Jack Nicholson, I jerk open the door pointing my gun through at the visitor, and there she stands with a suitcase in hand, a blue sundress hanging from her narrow shoulders, and a smile draped across her lips with that sickle moon scar in the left corner because her father was a right-handed temperamental alcoholic. Her right eye still doesn’t open all the way. I’m left-handed.
‘Can I come in?’
Six months ago, she nearly killed me or I almost killed myself or tried to kill both of us—maybe ten months ago. Probably a year.
My head becomes a civil war, one-half love and one half-cruel. I look at her face and want to bite her neck and rip out her throat, kiss her lips and hold her, whisper in her ear and say everything’s all right, grill her heart and feed it to dogs, put a bullet in her skull while her severed hands wrap around my still beating heart: I want her to love me, to be able to love.
She stares back at me still waiting for a reply. I can’t control my mouth, my expression—scowling or smiling—impossible for me to tell.
‘Gonna let me in?’
‘You need to call someone?’
She glides past me to the kitchen and I wonder when the phone bill was paid last. ‘Do you still keep vodka in the freezer?’ The scent of lily fills the hallway.
‘How did you get here?’ The sound of cabinets opening and closing reaches me. No car in the driveway or on the street, close the door and walk towards the kitchen, ‘I don’t see your car.’
‘The dishwasher! You made a new hiding spot. Clever.’ She holds a half liter of Philip’s and two coffee cups. ‘You know, you don’t have any glasses. What happened to all the glasses we used to have?’ She sets down the cups and fills them with ice and vodka.
I put the gun down on the counter and take the cup she hands me. ‘I don’t drink anymore.’
‘Then why only half a bottle?’
I sip at the vodka—insect repellent—cringing, flies fall from the sky and deathcurl on the floor like sullied snowflakes.
‘Not my fault you buy shit.’ She stirs with her finger and our eyes meet. ‘Were you gonna shoot me or something?’ She raises an eyebrow to the gun.
Also by Edward J Rathke
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The Left-Handed Smoker:
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