We decided to cut out of the mill early, grab a case of beer and just drive, drive, Jay’s knuckles white against the steering wheel, floor boards rattling with bottles as we pulled into the landing. Over the weekend I helped him fix up this johnboat that once belonged to his dad and he was eager to test it out. We took it in the broken reeds where we both gagged at the reek of cum and decay that after the hurricane had enveloped every molecule of the water. He still cast out the net for a few nonexistent shrimp then headed to some shady stretch to gig but after three hours all we caught was a rotten alligator carcass we mistook for driftwood. I was so tired I bitched and moaned at Jay about how long it would take to get back to the truck, how long it would take to drive back to town, how long it would take to get back home to bed. Jay said just a little longer, why was I in a hurry, a little longer, like time made all the difference. I told him I was done and turned on the motor and Jay almost yelled at me but instantly gave in because what else could he do? We took the old county road so we wouldn’t run into anyone we knew, the part of town that’s in most towns, where progress nudged its residents to a sunnier patch, leaving nothing but those few stragglers that kicked and screamed and were left behind.
When we pulled into a gas station so Jay could pick up some cigars I saw a bottom feeder by the ABC. She sat in her foldout chair with a cigarette, her skin soaked with every generation of the town, head back against the window while silver ringlets tried to figure out which way was up in the pressure of a hundred degree heat. Jay came out and watched me watching her and I could see he didn’t approve. He eased into the truck, stared out and watched the particles bounce in the atmosphere like we weren’t all a part of the same being. I approached her and couldn’t tell if she was nervous or curious. She stiffened when I grazed the cold bottle along her arm and over her clavicle, caught a bit of sweat off her nose like I was her hero, then let the amber neck dance between my two fingers as I walked away, waiting for her to follow the glimmer. Instead she hurried back inside where I lost her in my reflection of the store front.
How long had it been since I’d looked in a mirror? How many times had I avoided them? I suddenly felt that lingering suffocation jump up in my throat and I wanted to crash the bottle through me, break apart until all that was left was her awe. Instead I watched myself lick the bottle clean of her until Jay yelled for me to get back in the truck. We pulled away and after a stretch of silence Jay went on about how all the damn water was drying up and pretty soon the only good fishing would be in the old aquarium until it dried up, too, and I pretended not to care while I watched the moon and the sun float in the same sky and wondered which one was closer to dying.
About the author:
Nina Ficenec is a dramatist and short fiction writer currently residing in the Southeastern United States. Her work can be found in theNewerYork and other various publications. She is presently working on a play and refuses to hold an office job ever again in lieu of spending more time with her little boy.