Here’s another fiction piece. It’s extremely short, maybe closer to a vignette than a short story. It’s pointless and miserable, but there are some pretty pictures in there. Still more to come.
How I Think We’ll Do
A parade of ballerinas flutters in. They’re probably seventeen or eighteen. Dabs of makeup rest on their faces and the lighting in the hotel lobby’s restaurant forces them to glow. They look even more petite with that untouchable airiness of light floating around them, vibrating. They are saints shrinking underneath their halos.
A man venerates the girls with his gaze, craning his neck to peer over his wife’s shoulder to watch the flood of legs and frilly skirts. Her back facing them, the wife wonders what her husband is looking at. She turns her head around. One of the girls is whispering into another’s ear, who rolls her eyes and smiles, the whiteness of her teeth dancing in her mouth so gauzy and heavenshook.
She’s not amused when she resumes facing forward. The expression on his face is stripped bare by the bachelorettes. His knife lazily rests on the edge of his plate. He’s finished eating, but the tables around them are still scratching away at their meals. The squeaks and dinks of their imprecise forks and knives play counterpart to the tap and drag of all the footsteps crowding the marble floor. The ballerinas’ tiny Russian voices are singing.
She wants to say some things. She wants her soliloquy (even though she can’t quite remember that word, but she knows how to describe it). She would tell him, I want to talk about us. And I want to be optimistic. I think that we’ll do fine. But how I think we’ll do doesn’t really matter, does it? Her eyes are watching him. But she doesn’t say anything. She runs her teeth down her tongue, feels its brittleness before it reabsorbs the moisture in her mouth. She eyes the last forkful of scrambled eggs on her plate. She settles for a longer-than-necessary drink of her third mimosa. She feels veiny and acrylic. She wishes she hadn’t painted her fingernails this morning. It’ll wear off.
He shrugs. He can taste his own weariness in the salty bite of bacon hanging around in the pocket of his cheek. His mind’s gone loose inside its shell. She doesn’t know that after she fell asleep last night he took a bottle of cut-rate, lousy gin that he’d stashed underneath his socks in his bag and finished a solid four-fifths of it, heavy-breathed swig after swig after swig. At first he was quiet as he set the bottle onto the table, glass kissing glass lightly, so dainty and powdery-white-feeling. As he got drunker, he was more careless with the force with which he’d let the gin settle in front of him. He almost fell asleep in the chair: hotel bathrobe unloosened around his waist, socks pushed down in wrinkled stitches on his feet, ankles open to the breeze coming in from the room’s balcony. She went to bed early because she’d had too much to drink at dinner, so he didn’t consider convicting himself of any real crime for staying up and hammering himself into catatonia.
The glass in front of him is dripping itself to death down its sides, soaking the white tablecloth until its color is nearly beige and its once-starch surface is replaced with the sogginess of fresh paper Mache. The ice water will never be cold enough.