Three times Shelly marries a dress, a day, an uninhabitable dalliance with expectation. Patrons weep and clink glasses through lukewarm ceremonies, as though no historical link with their own garbled sanity is invited. Shackled in this crude display of overwrung latitudes, words leak sentimental. adventure lucky vow rescued made for each other good for each other fill each other read each other finish each other’s sentences make each other hole soulmates. How many drinks does it take to keep language from reigniting its revolving ‘chicken’ or ‘beef’?
Stacked bills pace, scream, and persecute kitchen counters. Shelly racks them up, scrawls out checks, stamps, envelopes, snaps the pile in her purse and rushes off to the post office to silence Micky and official predators for a month or two. Husband number three is a small, gnomish creature with an arsenal of rifles, handguns, machetes and spastic temper. Shelly has survived Micky-ridden pummeling homemade sourdough and scraping fur off rabbits, deer, and muskrats. She mirages bruises and nicks with the whip of Micky and the Florida sun branding her Celtic skin a purpled chafe of raw. Cicadas, crickets, grasshoppers and katydids carpet the swamp. A suck-flesh menagerie of blood-sodden insects promenade scars that catalogue home-sweet-home.
Sex gluts with grief and rutting. Shelly’s lips haven’t been ransacked since the wedding, but Micky plows her torso with all the gusto his tiny limbs can muster. Mornings, damp with baked muffins and billowing coffee, smile blandly; cling to the mirror of each other. The couple practice lurid hearsay, family claws, spoonfed silences.
Feed the chickens, wallow out Mother Sourdough to bubble Shelly’s morning still, check the bees, scrape the honey while lyrics leak shrill off her tongue into Micky’s baritone headache. He sets out milk for three feral kittens. Shelly fists the sediment of her thin words through years of domestic lipping.
* * * *
Epic Tale of Croaking Boy’s Weekend
Crooks of light bleed through one window, blast back from the porch. There are limits to sedentary cracks. Shelly straddles fantasies of sweet-smelling specters against the chronic blottage of husband after grimy husband whenever Micky goes hunting with his posse. A frenzy of dance, whipped cream out of the carton, two bottles of wine and a six-pack of Bud, flinging peanuts at squirrels Micky terrorizes when he’s home.
Micky texts photos of limp dead rabbits strung up in a quartet. Photos of him and the posse on a motor boat. His eyes and chest scorch, fuming red and wasted. “Dinner?” he texts. “Love you,” he texts. Shelly detects the rancid air of husband and his carcasses before they arrive. She puts on a negligee she bought after husband number two slathered below her navel in search of unmined terrain. No steady locale, but at least he attempted the trail. Two other husbands shirked that section of her map.
* * * *
Shelly stakes the tent, rakes in wood piles and trash to start a bonfire, and cracks open a beer from the cooler for their weekend outing. She’s long given up on prettying up for him. Sporting a sweat-rank undershirt and gym shorts she can smell the sea. “Skank,” her husband, Micky, seethes and skids back to the car. Her sham-fuck ‘helpful’ kicks his fuck-it ‘helpless’ in the ass, here in the Everglades.
* * * *
Shelly flings an Indigo snake from the Styrofoam cooler into the tent after Micky passes out. She plans to shake up this pitstop number three. His tobacco breath is acid-cheap beer, pot, and catfish, rioting snorts and squeals from his piss-open mouth. She closes the tent flaps, sits on the bench and cracks another beer. Stars fierce with futility lean in. Micky snarls and lurches. The tarp billows. Micky is venomous. The snake is not. Shelly gets up to lock herself in the car for the night. Let the screaming begin.
No need for papers in Florida. Shelly’s ready to walk her way into another dress, another day.
Meg Tuite's latest book is White Van from Unlikely Books. She is the author of Domestic Apparition (San Francisco Bay Press), Bound By Blue (Sententia Books), Meet My Haze (Big Table Publishing), and Bare Bulbs Swinging (Artistically Declined Press), as well as five chapbooks of short fiction, flash, poetic prose, and multi-genre. She teaches workshops and online classes through Bending Genres and is an associate editor at Narrative Magazine. She is also the editor of eight anthologies. She is included in the Best Small Fictions of 2021. Her blog: http://megtuite.com. Meg recommends Pathways of Healing Animal Rescue.