Toothpaste and Baking Soda

Doe noticed his left thumb rubbing where the ring finger met the palm, while his right hand inched up her thigh.

She didn’t care.

He wasn’t going home with her. But she’d get a few drinks out of him before slipping away. Probably pretty soon. He wasn’t her type. Drank scotch, and made a show of it. Talked too fast and sat too close. Kept his back to the front of the bar, face in the shadows.

She wondered what his wife looked like. If she’d wait up for him, or pretend to be asleep or not pretend at all.

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Things that Ring. Bells.

She pulled her ribcage open like French doors on a garden, nothing but pollen-heavy wildflowers and bees and butterflies, and begged him to enter. He insisted on wiping his feet, her arms trembled as she waited. Somewhere in the back, they found a cozy nook, poured coffee and maple syrup over undercooked French toast and too tart blackberries. It was warm inside, but they insisted on wearing wool sweaters, things that had never been washed and smelled of rain, and sweat and smoke.

The sea. The woods. Fires and starry nights. And coffee cooling beside paperbacks split along their spines.

Straw Man

Goat, dressed as a scarecrow, knocked on his sister’s back door.

“Trick or treat,” he said.

“What are you supposed to be?” she asked.

He shrugged, straw falling from his sleeves.

“Next time, just walk in,” she said, heading off down a darkened hall. He circled the kitchen table, the one his parents had when he was a kid, and sat in his spot, facing the back door.

“You almost woke the baby,” his sister muttered, materializing from the other direction.

“This place have secret passages?” he asked.

“You sure you don’t mind watching him? I won’t be out late.”

Risky

The fucking backyard was full of those god-damned geese, honking all morning and shitting all over the sod we just put in.

“They should be further south by now, shouldn’t they?” my wife said, from somewhere behind me. She might have said something else, but I was busy wrestling the dog away from the back door. He hates geese more than anything.

“Just let him out,” she said. “He’ll scare them off.”

I didn’t tell her how wrong she was, it was too early for that argument. So I just gave up, let the dog bark, took a long shower.

Prompt courtesy of the Daily Post.

Slipped Collar

In the morning, no. Not then. It was earlier. Sometime after last night, but closer to it than this morning. I remember the dog was barking. Scratching at the curtain drawn over the patio door. It leads to the backyard. Half or three-quarters, or maybe one-third, asleep, I told him to cut it out, then tossed a pillow when he didn’t.

And then I went fully to sleep, and so did the dog, or at least he stopped barking or maybe I just couldn’t hear him from under all the pillows.

But when I finally woke up, he was gone.

Loyal

Surprise meeting request, attendees hidden.

“Shit,” he thought. “Shit.”

Lead, producer, and human resources, waiting as he walked in. Halting at the door, stunned by the smiles on their mouths.

“So,” he said, taking the closest chair. “This is it?”

Ignoring him, the woman from human resources read off her sheet. A checklist of excuses. Corporate restructuring. Financial finagling. Documents to read and sign, contracts to sever. A blur. White tunnels in his eyes. The producer stood, walking over, arm extended.

“See it as an opportunity,” she said. “You were here for so long, a change would do you good.”

Prompt courtesy of the Daily Post.

Timed Out

Edith hung up, happy to have the other party cancel their plans. She’d spent the morning thinking up excuses, decided on being swamped at work, when the phone rang. Social obligations out the way, she sprawled out across her bed, having already called in sick that morning.

Bad action movies all afternoon, occasionally interrupted with bouts of fitful sleep, waking up more tired each time. Or slices of microwaved pizza, eaten on the same plate as when it arrived hot just before noon.

“One of those days,” he’d said, and she gave him what felt a little like a smile.