Fiction · 10/25/2017

Clutchings

And the day came when Jose told his wife that climate change was a fact and love was no longer a reliable basis for marriage.

At first, she assumed he was reading headlines aloud, but then she understood. It had been wrong for her to get a tattoo without including him. The things they’d shared — foraged mushrooms, languid road trips, Walker Percy, bong water, a toothbrush — had been crowded out by the little choices they made alone.

She caught her breath.

She would have invited him if she hadn’t been sure he would call it silly. Or stupid. She wanted the omelette tattoo without having to make a case for the symbol. Of course, she’d spent an hour explaining the symbol to the tattoo artist. Once a woman has babies she gets scrambled into an omelette, a soft blur of yolk, sac, and albumin with no way to discern a difference between parts.

The artist loved it. And she tried not to cry when he said how much he admired it, how cool, how ‘bout that. She tried not to cry, but she couldn’t help kissing his hand, the one operating the needles. Kissing his hand, leaving thanks, a twenty dollar bill, an inappropriate intimacy.

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On the drive home, she wondered what it meant. In light of the omelette.

And then the calendar page changed from alpine spring vista to summer beach.

And the day came when Jose referenced the tattoo and laughed. He was steering the boat on a lake. She was watching the clouds. He changed the radio to bluegrass and then settled on country. Which she could not stand. Could never stand those men in their snake-heeled boots and prim lil’ vests whining about horses.

“It’s cute enough,” Jose said of the omelette, his fingers turning up the twang-doodle duet.

That night, she added a star to the kitchen calendar, an indication that she and Jose had done it. But she felt wrong about the star. Why did she turn unworthy stars into keepsakes? She had wasted enough ink on unremarkable sex.

Jose liked to count the stars and keep track of the dates. He believed in keeping score, leaving visible evidence. The sky filled to the brink with signs; the calendar following suit; the planet changing.

And so the days came and went like nothing.

Until the night. The night when she finished. With his stars. And the saving. The night when she found no heavenly body to bear a wish across the sky. She thought about climate change, felt horrible, felt certain.

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Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and lives in Alabama with four chatty mammals. Find her writing in recent issues of Pif, OCCULUM, | tap magazine, (b)OINK, and Jam Tarts, among others. Every Mask I Tried On, her first fiction collection, won the 2016 Brighthorse Books Prize. She can’t wait for you to read it. More online at www.alinastefanescu.com.