I know this is a "poetry" forum, but thought I'd share a short story I wrote about 20 years ago right after I divorced my first wife after she had an affair with my brother (my sexual abuser). In it, Denise is my now ex-wife (her real middle name), and Andy is me (not my real name).


He thought the sunlight was a very still sunlight, so perfectly familiar, the dust barely moving through the air like the cloud that hovers over a stone labyrinth blown apart, with the remnants having fallen into fields of rubble, the maze no longer a secret. And he lay there looking through the sheers and seeing everything blurry beyond them, pine trees and the sky mixing in greens and blue. He stuck his leg out from under the sheet and waited for the oscillating fan to turn again. It came and waved across the hairs on his leg and stirred the dust through the air again, swirling it for a second, and he felt Denise roll over behind him.

She put her hand to his arm and came close to kiss his shoulder, and he felt her warm breath and his eyes shut instantly.

"Are you awake?" she whispered to his ear.

He didn't answer.

She lay back down closer to him with her hand still on his arm.

He wished he could go back to sleep, that the sunlight coming through the windows would go back out of the room and leave the dark behind and leave him alone, and that everything would be turned back again.

The alarm went off a few minutes later and he pushed her hand away, sat up on his elbow and switched it off. He let himself slip back onto the mattress, pulling the white cotton sheet back across his mid-section.

She started to get out of bed. "Do you want some breakfast? I'll go make us some juice and pancakes and bring it back in here."

He didn't answer.

She paused and then pulled the sheet back over herself and lay very close to him, silent for a moment.

"Do you want to go over to Momma's with me today?" she asked.

"I need to wash the car."

"We could go this evening. Momma usually goes grocery shopping Saturday mornings anyway. Don't you think we could go this evening? We haven't been over there in a few weeks, and then we could go see your Mom and Dad. I'm sure they'd like to see us. Don't you think we could do that?"

He looked out the window again without answering, the sheet on his chest rising and falling with his steady, calm breaths. He heard someone whistle, high pitched and long three times, and he knew it was Mr. Hobbs, the retarded man from across the street who walks the neighborhood with brown grocery bags, picking up aluminum cans from the ditches. Long, long, long came the whistle across the yard as Mr. Hobbs called Champ, his gray-spotted boxer.

"You never forget, do you?" she asked, barely audible. "You can't leave it alone."

He wouldn't say anything and kept his eyes to the sheers and thought about how nice it was last night when he woke up and the walls were black, the sheet was black, the sheers were black, and she wasn't talking and everything stood still. He couldn't see the fan last night in the darkness, but could only hear it moving left to right, click, right to left, click, and he thought then of how it moved, never going and not coming back.

"He was nothing," she said. "I swear. It meant nothing."

"Maybe," he said.

"Maybe? Maybe what?"

"Maybe it did and maybe it didn't. I'll never know though, will I?"

"I said it didn't."

"You said a lot of things."

She sat up on the bed, composing a thought.

"Well, then, what if it did?" she asked. "It . . . why keep after it? It doesn't matter now."

The fan moved left to right, click, right to left, click, and long, long, long came Mr. Hobbs from across the street. Andy looked at the fan, the wrinkled, paper-covered walls, the blowing sheers, and then the pin-holes in the ceiling tiles, and he wondered. And he thought about it, how it could be nothing, yet move between them, like water through a channel; so easy; and he wondered if it mattered. "Come, Champ, come," called Mr. Hobbs.

"Does anyone else know?" she asked.

"I didn't tell anyone."

He got out of bed and stood at the window in his briefs, looking through a crack in the sheers. She crawled across the bed and stood behind him, her arms around him and her hands on his chest. He felt her pale green silk gown at his back, cool like evening.

"So we'll keep on then, that's it? That's what we want?" he asked.

"It'll be all right, everything'll be better," she said. "We'll do lots of things again. We'll go over to the lake and out to eat downtown at Johnson's, and we'll read Vanity Fair together again, out loud. You remember how much you liked Amelia in that? And Dickinson; Ample Make This Bed. That'll be nice. Won't it, Andy? We'll do a lot of things."

"I suppose."

"So, you'll be happy now?" she asked.

"I'm happy enough."

He parted the sheers wider and felt her step high on the tips of her toes to look over his shoulder.

"Our crepe myrtle doesn't look like it's going to bloom," she said, following his gaze into the backyard. "I keep watering it but I don't know what else to do for it. Do you think it's all right?"

"Yeah. They don't bloom until it gets real warm, almost unbearable. It'll give and bloom eventually and you won't have to worry about it anymore. Just leave it alone. It's all right."

"I'm going to make us some breakfast. Do you want biscuits or pancakes?"


He got dressed and backed the car out of the carport onto the steep incline of the concrete drive and got the pail and detergent. The water hose uncurled as he dragged it across the yard behind him, kinking up in knots, and stirring up dust. He threw it to the ground where the handle of the nozzle hit and sprayed into the air over him for a second.

Turning his back to the car, he sat down beside it, his knees brought up tight to his chest and his wrists to his forehead. He felt the trap rising up around them again, around him, the labyrinth restored like a chain-link fence, and he could feel it very close around them; and he could see through it, it's constant pattern crossing over them.

Andy lay under the sheet alone, his knees drawn up close to his chest. He felt as though he were dangling his legs over a ledge, although he wasn't moving them at all. Blind, he thought. Blind, blind, blind. He lay in bed until late morning, the room still undisturbed since early last night when he lay down there.

And no one else knew about her and it, or if they did, they didn't act it to him and he smiled a lot at them when they talked; and he dangled his legs a lot over the ledge in his mind while he stood there and felt displayed before them.

He rolled over in bed and answered the telephone and spoke for a few moments, still swinging his legs in his mind.

"Are you sure?" she asked from the other end.

"Yeah," he answered, and they kept quite for a minute.

"Well, what if I was to . . . ," and she asked a question about things that could be for a while or not for a while, depending on whether he or she thought about it. He drummed the tips of his fingers on the back of the telephone receiver in erratic patterns like chords on a piano, and he felt lost and burning in some desert of Sahara.

She brought up the weather.

"I want it to rain," he said.

She said the radio said it wouldn't.

"Then maybe it won't," he said, and she didn't say anything else.

"Denise, I'm very tired. I'm going to go to sleep now."

"Sleep? But it's morning."

"I'm very tired."

He hung up, closed his eyes, slept, and dreamed of rain; he walked to a clay ledge, threw himself off and fell and saw Denise being swept away by the rain, down deep, her face crystal like clear water that he could look through easily now. And she came back up to him holding handfuls of bloomed crepe myrtles, squeezing the tender leaves from the thin stalks, and saying "Oh, Andy, they've bloomed so well." He saw her smile as she handed him the bare stalks while he lay down and sank into the water. And he felt a wave, the end, pass and wash over him, pulling his hair forward across his eyes, taking all sounds from his ears, and making everything black again as the water became calm. And he woke and got out of bed in the late afternoon, having seen the circle around them closed.