Darlin’ Sue


We don’t get many earthquakes in Toledo. We don’t get many tremors, either. We don’t get many natural disasters at all, so a few weeks ago when I noticed the saltshaker shivering on the table, I headed straight for the doorway, sat in a ball on the floor, and started rocking back and forth. Gary came home after I’d already curled myself into the fetal position waiting for the house to come tumbling down around me. He saw me but instead of reaching out a hand to help me up he started laughing his head off. He said he hadn’t felt anything on his drive home and that I was blowing things out of proportion. There I was weeping like a child, wearing my work scrubs, pressing myself into the filthy linoleum floor, and all he did was look at me like I was a joke and pat his stomach to signal he was going into the other room to root through the refrigerator. I told him he could blow himself out of proportion for all I cared, and slammed the door to the bedroom.

Since then, I’d been restless, irritated, and everything Gary did started to rub me the wrong way—how he ironed his jeans; how he ate the core of his apple; how he wiped each foot exactly three times on the welcome mat before coming inside.

“They’re clean, Gary!” I’d yell to him.  “All you did was walk to the mailbox and back, for Christ’s sake!”

But he would just shrug his shoulders and say, “It’s old habit.”

Gary had been my first and only boyfriend.  It’s not that I’m ugly or anything, cause I’m not.  I’m not saying I’m a super model, but I’m ok looking—I have two perfect mouthfuls of breast and my face is more or less symmetrical. But for one reason or another, things just never worked out between me and other men. Gary’d gone to four-year college and I knew he’d been with other girls before. When we met I was twenty-four and he knew he was my first; I think he found some kind of insurance policy in that. Deep down, I think he liked knowing he was the only guy I’d been with.

Gary works on paper clip patents for Hammermill. He makes sure each patent is up-to-date and that no one else in the office supply world has gotten hold of the company’s design.

In all honesty, Gary’s boringness is part of the reason we got married; I knew he’d never go anywhere and he knew I was a sure thing. I’d lived my whole adult life thinking there must be something wrong with me because there’s got to be something wrong with a woman who lives almost a quarter of a century without having a single boyfriend. And I thought maybe he was the only one who hadn’t noticed my defect, and if that was so, I should probably hold onto him. He was one of those guys that’d followed the straight and narrow: he knew how to do his own laundry, had a job and a mortgage on a house. I thought that’s all I’d ever want.

How things change.


I caught my new neighbor’s dog digging up the tulips in our yard and was thrilled because it meant I would have to take him next door. I walked over to him and took him by his collar, then started pulling him back home. The dog was part Great Dane and part mongrel, a bastard dog, no doubt.

“Nina!” I called out, as I dragged the mutt behind me while he snotted on my hand then licked it off. “Niiiina!”

“Nina,” I said once more, but by the time I finished calling her name she was out on her porch wondering what all the commotion was about. She was in black pedal pushers and a turquoise tank top that emphasized her firm breasts. She taught spinning and Pilates and her shoulders crested to catch the sunlight.

I dragged the Dane the rest of the way up the steps and Nina opened the door to let him back inside.

“Oh God, Sue, I’m so sorry. I don’t know why he keeps jumping that fence.”

“It’s ok,” I told her.

“What is this, the second time this week?”

“It’s alright,” I said. It was the third.

She looked back through the screen door and eyed the dog who’d found a place for himself in the hallway.

“I just don’t know why he keeps doing that,” she said.

She stood there with her smooth skin and collarbone catching sunlight, and I watched her run her fingers through her dark hair in a swift, adept stroke.  Her hair was cropped short but not like a man’s. It was more styled than that—the line of the cut framed her high-cheeked face.

Truth is, I may have had something to do with why the dog kept coming into my yard.

A while ago I saw a smashed squirrel on the side of the street so I put it in a baggy and buried it in the corner of our flowerbeds. The dog would get a whiff from the other side of the chain link fence and he couldn’t resist. He’d dig it up and I’d rebury it after I took him back to Nina’s house.

“You know dogs,” I said. “They want to get out and see the world.”

She told me she’d been on the phone with her sister in Norway and hadn’t been paying attention to the dog out back.

“Norway,” I said, trying to keep the conversation going.  “Vikings!”

A long pause leaked between us and I could feel her losing interest, which made me heavy. I hoped it wasn’t something I’d said. Up until then, I thought things had been going so well. I’d never talked to Nina for more than a few minutes, and I knew that if we clicked just one time, she’d invite me in. We’d make a tradition of it, me bringing over the dog, her inviting me in, making coffee. We’d talk about dentists and Pilates and hair removal.

“Well,” I said after a long enough silence, “Guess I should get going.”

“Thanks for returning Bo,” she said.

“Who?” I asked, before remembering that Bo was the Dane’s name. “Oh, sure. No problem. Anytime.”

I started back home and when I heard her screen door shut I slowed my pace, hoping she would watch me make my way across her window.

Since she’d moved in, Nina’d been on my mind. I could see directly into her bedroom and living room from our house, so I knew a thing or two about her. First off, she had a lot of boyfriends. Sometimes I’d see them at night when Gary was sleeping. The men were always different and never stayed over. I wanted to ask her out right what her secret was, but didn’t know how. The thought had crossed my mind that maybe she was charging them some kind of money, it must be hard living off of spinning and Pilates, but I didn’t want to think that about her so I just assumed she really liked having sex. I was waiting until we became best friends to bring it up.

Second, she hardly had any furniture and most of her boxes remained unpacked in the living room. I liked that she was too busy to decide where her books should live. I wished I could be so carefree, but I had responsibilities and another person that tied me down.

When I got back to our yard from Nina’s I found Gary hanging his tighty whities over the clothesline.

“What the hell are you doing?” I said, snatching the wet underwear off the line and throwing them back into the basket.

“You told me to do the laundry.”

“Not out here, not like this. Everyone can see right in the yard.”


“So I don’t want your unmentionables out here flapping in the wind!”

I was still bitter about him leaving me crouched in the doorway, as if that wasn’t embarrassment enough. As if it would have been so hard for him to reach out a hand and help me up. Acknowledge how scary it must have been for me—the whole world caving in like that.

“Who cares,” he said.

“I don’t want the neighbors talking about it and I don’t want them talking about me.”

“They’re my underwear.”

“Good God, Gary. You just don’t get it, do you?”

As I took the rest of the laundry down from the line, he walked away, moping, saying, “I don’t know what’s with you these days, Sue. That’s what I don’t get.”

I could see Nina stirring something on the stove and I considered going back over and apologizing about the noise of our bickering and the soggy underwear, explaining that Gary didn’t know much about couth. I thought if I went over to her now, there was still time to fix any bad impressions she had about me. Just then she looked out the window and gave me a little wave. I think she wanted me to know that things were still OK, that whatever Gary did with his wet laundry didn’t hurt whatever was going on between us.


You know what I thought about in those five seconds under the doorway?  I thought about how I’d been letting my life slip by. How I’d only ever slept with Gary and how, because of that, I’d been feeling sorry for myself for years and years. I was stuck on that thought for weeks until I decided that no one was going to dig me out of this hole except myself. I looked in the mirror after I got out of the shower and said: Hey, Sadsack! Buck up! You’ve still got two perfect mouthfuls of breast on you! And that made me feel better—knowing that there was still something ahead of me—that all hope wasn’t lost.

When I decided to make my way out of feeling sorry for myself I figured the first thing I needed to do was to work on me. I got two cans of soup from the kitchen and started doing lunges every day. I’d walk across the room ten times before getting in the shower and going to work. Before I started, I would imagine people throwing quarters at my thighs and watch them bounce off like balls on a trampoline. All that positive thinking and knowing once I got some things together, I could really stand up for myself and leave Gary behind, must’ve been doing some good because the other dental hygienist at work, Trisha, told me I had a new glow about me.

I don’t know about any glow, but the lunges with the soup cans had made me feel better. I got up the nerve to show up at Nina’s door without the dog but with a jar of honey in hand instead.

Once I rang her doorbell and heard her coming down the steps I checked to see if I’d put on deodorant.

“Sue,” she said. “Did Bo get out again?”

“No,” I told her. “Nothing like that. Just honey.”

I could tell she was confused so I held out the jar I brought with me.

“How sweet of you,” she said, and opened the door for me. She showed me to the kitchen and put on tea. We talked and talked and we propped our feet up on the unpacked boxes scattered around the kitchen. Nina showed me the cowhide rug in her living room. I demonstrated the lunges I’d been doing and she gave me some pointers, made sure my knee wasn’t sliding over my ankle. When we sat back down at the table I decided we were friends enough now to talk about our darkest secrets.

“You know Gary,” I said, “My husband.”

Nina nodded.

“Well, I’ve been thinking of cutting out on him.”

“Like leaving?” Nina’s perfectly arched eyebrows raised up at me and I followed the peak of her brow line. She was beautiful. “Why?” she asked.

“You know,” I said to her.

“I do?”

“Sure. You’re not married, right?”

Nina shook her head and laughed at the idea. “Me? I like married men,” she said, “But I don’t want to marry them.”

“See. I knew you’d get it,” I said. “You could have mine.”

“Really,” she said.

“Sure. Take him off my hands, see if I care.”

Nina raised her eyebrows and the corners of her mouth lit up.

I told her about the tremors and the paper clips and how Gary’d wasted my youth.

She leaned into the table and patted my hand. She was following every one of my words and I was relieved to finally have someone’s attention.

“Oh, Sue,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it must be like. You know, I almost got married once.”

“You did?”

She nodded.

“What happened?”

“Well, I live a certain kind of lifestyle. And I just realized if I wanted to get married, I wouldn’t be able to live the life I’d been living.”

I told her that’s exactly how I felt. Like Gary was holding me back from being the person I was supposed to be.

Gary was home making a chicken potpie. It was my favorite and he knew it and I thought maybe the potpie was his way of apologizing for not helping me up the day of the earthquake, or for holding me captive in the prime of my life when I was supposed to be out in the world sowing my oats, or for his wet underwear on the clothesline and his feet wiping ruining my life.

I asked him what the occasion was and he said, “Just thought you could use a nice meal.”

That was sweet of him. He always had been a thoughtful man. Ever since we were first dating he made me lunch each day to take to work. It was always peanut butter with some flavor of jelly and it was smashed by the time I ate it, but at first I was so bowled over by the fact that I had a boyfriend and that he’d done something for me that I didn’t much care.

We ate the potpie straight from the casserole dish while watching Dateline on the couch. When we were done eating Gary started inching his hand slowly up the thigh of my scrub pants, trying to get his fingers under the drawstring waistband. I only let it go on for two seconds cause I thought maybe I could just close my eyes and pretend it was someone else like I often did, but I couldn’t go through with it.

Instead I turned to face him and said, “What in the hell are you doing?”

I wouldn’t have been so harsh except he was still in his work clothes and I could hear a soft rattle in his shirt pocket as he moved his arm—undoubtedly loose paperclips rustling around in the corners.

“What’s it look like?”

“Well knock it off,” I said, and brushed his hand away. “You have potpie breath.”

Gary pushed himself off the couch, grabbed two Diet Cokes from the refrigerator, hollered, “You’re driving me crazy, Sue! What do you want from me?” and went sulking out into the garage.

When I heard a crash a while later I looked out the window to find Gary, shirtless, kicking over trashcans into the alley. He was talking to himself in the backyard by the fence and waving his hands around. I hated myself for getting angry at him like that after he’d made potpie, but I just couldn’t handle him anymore. I wanted to go over and talk to Nina about it, woman to woman, but there was no way to get there without running into Gary, and I thought he needed to cool off awhile. So I went upstairs into the bedroom and looked across the way.

Nina’s bedroom light was on and she was in the middle of having sex with a man wearing nothing but a pair of leather chaps and a necktie; the guy was older than she was, balding but muscular, and she was holding onto his tie like she’d just lassoed him. I turned out my bedroom light and brought up a chair to the window to watch. It wasn’t my first time watching Nina have sex. It happened fairly often, and I couldn’t get over how much she seemed to love it. Whenever Gary and I had sex, I usually just waited it out and hoped his wounded squirrel grunts wouldn’t last too long until he climbed off and started snoring into sleep. Sex seemed a sticky hassle to me and I’d always thought it was my problem—like maybe I wasn’t a sexual being or something. Maybe I’d waited too long to lose my virginity and I’d lost my window of opportunity.

Nina slid the knot of the guy’s tie closer to his neck and he started bucking. I grabbed my own throat, wondered what it must feel like to be reigned in, and then I stuck my hand down my underpants.

I hadn’t counted on Gary coming into the bedroom.

I was so caught up in imagining how it must feel to be that man on Nina’s bed, to be able to touch the soft the skin on the backs of her knees, that I hadn’t heard Gary’s feet tromping up the steps. I didn’t even notice him standing right behind me taking it all in.

“Thought you’d be in bed,” he said, and I just about jumped out of my skin. I was so angry at him for creeping up behind me that I didn’t say anything back. I crawled into bed and turned over onto my side.

Gary closed the curtains and brushed his teeth.

“That what you want?” he asked me just as I was crossing over the line into sleep.

I opened my eyes in the dark and could still see a sliver of Nina’s window lit across the way.  I thought to myself that that’s what everyone wanted.

“So what if it is,” I said to Gary, and then started breathing slow and heavy like I’d drifted off to sleep.

“Alright then,” he said. “As long as you’re sure.”


I came home after assisting a root canal at work and found Gary on the couch wearing a neckerchief.

“Cold?” I asked as I stripped off the cardigan I wore to work.

It should have been obvious that I was making fun of him because it must have been at least 85 degrees that day and we only had one ceiling fan.

Gary took a long breath in before pulling on his Diet Coke, and then, only after I saw the lump of his Adam’s apple rise and fall with a swallow, did he answer.

“Nope,” he said, so matter-of-factly I had to second-guess myself about that rust colored paisley fabric tied around his throat.

“What’s with the scarf?” I asked, but he just ignored me and crossed both of his feet atop the coffee table.

Then I found the planter that usually held my Christmas cactus empty for all but a layer of brown sludge lining the bottom. When I asked Gary if he knew what’d happened to my cactus he told me he’d needed something to spit in. He said it and I looked over to see a wad of chaw tucked inside his lip and a small brown thread lodged between his canine and his incisor, sitting there like a wedged in poppy seed. Gary’d never shown any interest in tobacco. In fact, he’d made a point of it to scowl at smokers we passed outside of bars and restaurants as if to say to them: you’re killing everyone around you too, pal.

“What the hell’s the gunk in your teeth, Gar?”

He took his thumbnail to the middle of his front teeth. “That it?”

I told him yes even though I could still see it sitting right where it had been before.

“When’d you start chewing tobacco?” I asked as I unlaced my shoes and put them by the door.

“Can’t recall,” he said as he dug in the front pocket of his shirt, got out a can of Copenhagen, and stuffed a new gob in his lip.

“Well I think it’s disgusting,” I said.

Gary swiped the planter from my hands and shot a big wad out the side of his mouth but his aim was way off and the sludge landed right on the big toe of my bare foot. I looked at Gary but he didn’t even seem sorry. He just tucked the planter under his arm and headed out into the garage.

I didn’t know what to make of the chaw chewing Gary. I thought he was probably just trying to get back at me for not giving him sex the other day. He probably expected me to apologize for the comment about his potpie breath, but I wasn’t falling for it. Plus, at least it wasn’t the old Gary. This Gary didn’t even bother to wipe his shoes on the mat—he just tromped on in bringing everything from the outside world into our living room on the soles of his feet.

Somebody must’ve figured out about the dead squirrel cause Bo hadn’t been in the yard for several days and when I went out to see if it was still there all I found were small holes in between the tulips. I went over to Nina’s house with a loaf of banana bread as an excuse to visit but she didn’t answer even though her car was in the garage and I could see her through her living room curtains. I thought maybe Nina had finally figured out what everybody else but Gary had known—that there was something wrong about me. And if only she would let me know what it was I needed to fix, I would do it. I knew I could change.

Gary and I hardly talked anymore. I’d come home from work to find him on the couch practicing rope ties and chewing tobacco. He started wearing jeans to work and stopped calling me by name. He’d been saying it for more than a decade but it was like he just woke up one day and couldn’t say it anymore. When he did talk to me he called me Darlin’. He didn’t even try to say Sue. It was just Darlin’ this and Darlin’ that.


I was scrubbing bean scum from a pot Gary had cooked with the night before when I spotted him on the ground in our yard with his arm looped around Bo’s neck. At first, I thought Gary’d caught the Dane in the tulips again—maybe the squirrel had been there all along—but then I realized that wasn’t the case at all. Gary was doing everything he could to get that dog on its back. Bo was yelping and scurrying its legs to keep balance, but Gary finally managed to flip him and as soon as the dog’s shoulders hit the grass, Gary let him go and the dog went shooting around the yard.

“Gar,” I yelled to him out the back door. “What’re you doing?”

“I was bulldogging that damn dog,” he said.

“Why’d you do that?” I asked him.

By the time I got myself outside, I noticed Nina was sitting in a lawn chair wearing a sunhat, cheering Gary on.

“He got 5.5,” she said.

“Is that good?”

“Could be better for a Dane,” Nina said. “Could be worse.”

Even though I’d been over to Nina’s a dozen times, she’d never stepped foot on our property before.

Gary went over to the fence and leaned one arm against it, right beside her chair.

“How long’ve you been out here?” I asked Nina.

“Who knows,” she said as she crossed her legs. The skin of her calves glistened from the lotion that must’ve been on them. “A while, I guess.”

“Maybe you should get inside. That sun’ll burn you right through today.”

“I’m fine,” she told me. “I’ve got on 45.”

“Those numbers don’t mean anything, really,” I said.

“Why don’t you go back inside and put some coffee on, Darlin?” Gary said. “Nina and I are catching up.”

Catching up? I thought to myself. You only catch up with old friends, not strangers. And everyone knows that Nina’s my friend and not Gary’s.

“Nina,” I said, ignoring Gary. “Maybe we can get together later this afternoon and go over those crunches you were showing me?”

Nina took a sip from her iced coffee and said, “Maybe another day would be better,” then went back to scratching Bo under his chin and giving Gary pointers about leveraging his leg under the dog’s hips for a smoother flip.

I didn’t like that Nina was giving Gary tips on how to beat out her own dog; that didn’t seem like the loyal thing to do. And then she started laughing at something Gary said and it made me wonder if maybe Gary was funnier than I realized he was, and then I thought that I should be the one being funny, not him. But I hadn’t been funny, not for a long time. Maybe ever.


Gary stopped asking me what was wrong all the time and never made me lunch anymore, not even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that ended up smashed by the time I went to eat them, but I started making his. Half the time I’d find them thrown the trashcan in the alley still in the bag. I barely even saw him except at dinner when we ate in front of the TV. He started going out at night and leaving me home all alone. He said he needed some space. If you ask me, it wasn’t fair for him to ask for space. I was the one who needed space. I was the one who was thinking about leaving him. I was the one with the space problem.

I spent a lot of time waiting up for Gary. I thought about how you thought you knew the person you married until something like this happened, and it turned out you didn’t know them at all. I would get those cheap romance novels at the grocery store and try and make myself fall asleep, but I couldn’t keep my mind from racing. Before, I used to spend my nights awake thinking of what I would say to him when I left. How I would only walk out with one bag on my shoulder and leave the rest behind. But after I started to wait up I just spent those long quiet hours wishing him back home. When I asked him in the mornings where he’d been the night before, he just said, “Out,” and that was the end of that. I never had any real reason not to believe him. I mean, this was Gary we’re talking about. The paperclip guy. There’s no reason I shouldn’t rest safe and sound knowing that he was the same man who promised me for better or worse.

As I was finishing up my latest romance one night I noticed Nina’s bedroom light come on. I hadn’t talked to her in a while and I hadn’t seen her with anyone else, either. I knew she’d had men in there but she’d started leaving her bedroom light off. Maybe all those afternoons we’d spent in her kitchen didn’t mean anything after all.

I pulled the chair up to the window and grabbed my glasses so I could see better. Nina was on top, all aglow, her hands running through her hair. She was beautiful like that, balancing on top. Her breasts were bouncing up and down and to see her happy made me calm again. Maybe there was still hope for us; maybe she just needed time.

Nina put her hands down on the bed and flipped over so she was the one pinned onto the sheets. The man’s back was just muscular enough that I could make out shadows beneath the shoulder blades; his back was strong but not threatening, and I could see how Nina would like that about him. The back of his neck was long and pale and there was something about it I recognized but couldn’t place it until he turned around and stared at me through the window. His face was one I’d seen every day for ten years but it didn’t register because nothing I knew about Gary could let him be the man on top of Nina, naked all the way down except a pair of chaps. When he saw me he gave a smile across the way, as if he was happy to see me—as if he hadn’t seen me in some time. Once he waved it sank in that it must be Gary, my husband, my Gary, over there. I rushed over and started banging the hell out of Nina’s door. Bo was jumping up and barking his head off at me, but I didn’t care, I was miles beyond fear. When Nina finally got to the door in a robe half covering her, she barely had time to open it before I bulldogged her onto the hardwood, pantyless and all. I put her in a headlock and could feel her long, delicate soft neck in the crook of my arm. She was sweaty and her nipples were hard; she tried to scream my name but her words were barely recognizable with all the air I was squeezing out of her windpipe.

Whatever Nina and I had had was over. I knew that as soon as Gary looked over across the way and smiled at me. She wasn’t the woman I thought she was and I could see that now. I looked right into her eyes as she was staring up at me begging for air. She was flapping like a fish and her legs were splayed wide open wafting the smell of trout guts in my face. I looked right at her crotch and saw Gary’s condom hanging limp between her legs, still halfway inside of her. It was like she was trying to rub it in, her and Gary, even though I was on top pinning her to the hardwood. She wasn’t at all the person I knew.

Gary never did come downstairs. He hovered at the top of the staircase with an erection that wouldn’t quit, a pair of chaps on, his hands on his hips looking triumphant. He looked good up there like that, like a bull rider who’d just ridden his first eight seconds, but I couldn’t handle seeing him look that proud after what he’d done.
There was nothing to say except, “Put your dick away, Gary. For Christ sakes! You’re my Goddamned husband. Doesn’t that mean anything to you? Jesus Christ.”

Gary tried to tuck his erection into the waist of his chaps but it wouldn’t go. He looked down and me and at Nina and all he said was, “You gave it the OK, Sue. You gave it the OK.”


I kicked Gary out, but he wouldn’t go far. I told him I didn’t mean what I said about Nina having him, that it was a joke. But he said it didn’t sound like I was joking, so how was he to know? He said he’d promised he’d never leave me, so he kept his word. He built a tent out of tarps that night and he’d been sleeping in it ever since.  Each morning I check to see if he was still there, and he always was.

It’s not that I didn’t want to invite him in. Nina went away to visit her sister in Norway and I wanted to pretend none of it had ever happened—that I hadn’t thought about leaving him, that Nina’d never moved next door, that I hadn’t been so nasty to Gary in the first place or hadn’t fallen for Nina. But I couldn’t take it back. Not now.

I gave up on my soup can squats. I replaced them with breakfast at the Cinnabon in the mall. That and a large skim mocha with whipped cream because I needed something to look forward to so I would get out of bed.

Between patients I’d try and see how much Novocain it would take to numb my nose just so I would have something to concentrate on. I’d shoot two shots usually, maybe three, then pinch it in front of the mirror until I couldn’t feel a thing. It was nice having something that I could still control. I knew that no matter what, if I put that Novocain in my nose, it would numb. Seems like my nose was the only thing that could get numb—every other part of me felt broken down.

When the Novocain wasn’t enough, I tried other things to make me feel better. There was a tooth extraction scheduled one afternoon and I’d just put the patient down. He wasn’t terrible looking; he was a Verizon Wireless salesman who’d been coming in for a couple of years and I felt like we knew each other well enough. He’d sold me my cell phone a few months ago and had given me a good deal on a data plan. He still had most of his hair and swore he flossed twice a day, though I had my doubts. Right after he was under I leaned in and kissed him, just to see what it would be like. I wanted to make myself move on already. I stayed there with my lips against his for a while, hoping something would happen. That all the hurt I’d been feeling about Gary and Nina would dissolve. But I didn’t feel a thing except his chapped lips and cotton mouth, and then Trisha started banging on the door with her giant arm asking if I was alright so I had to make like I was prepping the room before she opened the door and caught me.

Once I did let Gary come in for spaghetti dinner, but I couldn’t look at him without being sick to my stomach. Knowing he had wanted Nina, even if for a minute, was too much. You can’t just make things go back to being ok again; it’s not that easy.


I leave for the office each morning and pass him on the way out, shoo him away like a stray and tell him to get. But he doesn’t budge. He just tends to his pit fire and pees on the tulips.  He says he’ll be there in the evening when I come home from work, that he’ll wait for me to get over it. I beg him to go away and leave me be, but he keeps saying that time will make things better; it always does. He says we made up our minds a while ago, for better or for worse.

This morning I looked outside and saw Gary cooking biscuits over his pit fire. He’s never really apologized, he said he was just trying to make me happy—all he wanted was to be able to give me what I needed to make me happy and isn’t that what marriage is all about? I never know how to answer that, but I think about it every night while listening to him in the backyard, playing his harmonica by his little campfire.


(winner of the Editors Prize in Prose for issue 25)