Monday, December 12, 2016

Three Stories by S.J. Culver

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Six Words for Carlo

Three Stories by S.J. Culver
Illustration by Holly Hilgenberg.

I’ll tell Carlo that I cheated on him today. It’s very easy. All I have to do is say, “Carlo, I slept with your brother.” Easy. Very, very easy. Just six words. I must say more than a thousand words to Carlo every day. Maybe more than two thousand. Mathematically speaking, this confession’s only, like, a very small fraction of our words for the day. It’s completely reasonable that some other combination of six words will be more memorable or important. Maybe he’ll say back, “Let’s forget it and order takeout.”

Or even, “Bernice, I don’t care. Marry me?”

He might want to know why I slept with Frank, though. And then I’m in trouble. Because that’s definitely going to be more than six words. I mean, there’s that whole anecdote about Trish’s birthday last summer, the one Carlo couldn’t get off work for. And then the time we all went to the coast for the weekend and Carlo got sick off some bad shellfish. And when he refused to go out on New Year’s. Really, every single time, if he had just done what I wanted, we wouldn’t be in this situation now. I told him not to order those oysters. Like little balls of snot, they were.

I’ll tell him in the kitchen. No—too many knives. The living room, then. It’s nearer to the door. I should put on shoes, in case he kicks me out. There’s no dignity in putting on shoes while someone’s waiting for you to leave. Maybe I should pack a bag. That might jinx things though. Like fate, having some fun with me, making it to where I won’t need the bag unless I pack one, and then wham—out the door.

I’ll put on that blouse I know he likes, the one he brought back from Mexico last year. It fits me perfectly, isn’t that strange? I remember the night he gave it to me, sort of dreading trying it on, but then I looked in the mirror. I looked in the mirror and I never wanted to take that shirt off again, even later that night, when Carlo wanted to make love. So we did it with the shirt between us, and it was hell getting the wrinkles out the next morning, but it was worth it because I felt so beautiful the whole time.

I should move that box of Kleenex into the living room. I can’t decide whether to turn off the radio. Maybe an album would be better. I already cleaned the place up, but I can’t light a candle or it’ll seem too much like I’m expecting romance. I wish the damn cat would stop scratching up the end table. I wish I’d made dinner. I wish I’d had time to wash my hair. I wish I were expecting romance. I wish I had never fucking met Frank fucking Moretti, not that I could have avoided it forever.

It’s only six words, I just have to remember, it’s only six words. Six words for Carlo, who picks up groceries and beer after work. Six words for Carlo, who only owns one necktie. Six words for Carlo, who does crosswords on the toilet with the bathroom door open. Six words for Carlo, who eats plums whole. Six words for Carlo, who smells like cigarettes and doesn’t shave on Saturdays, who lets the cat sleep on his face, who wears high white socks to mow the grass. Six words for Carlo, who forgets to hide my birthday presents every year. Six words for Carlo, who has my name tattooed between his shoulder blades. Six words for Carlo, who deserves better than this.