I was seeing a widow who lived above the butcher shop back then. Taken with the way she curled her hair over one ear, how it slowly dropped back down again. She told me that her father had been a carnival barker. Of his fiery pitches. How they never stayed in one place for very long. That he was a quiet man, bookended by bottles of booze; a thick volume she couldn't crack open.
Only once mentioning her husband. Told me of the wild phase she went through as a teen. The plaster cast she made of a famous rock star's "Thing." In a drawer now, under her bras.
Afterward she'd sing to me in a foreign language. Hungarian, I think it was. Tunes that were haunting and soothing at the same time. I'd bring home pounds and pounds of meat later from the butcher downstairs. Thick red steaks and fat-veiny pork chops. Which my wife just stuffed in the freezer most times, without saying much.
He was a sewer worker. Was old enough to remember Ed Norton from The Honeymooners being one. All the ribbing he took because of it. So he said he worked for the Water Department. Was beginning to date again. Went to a restaurant where the table candle was battery operated, nearly real-looking.
She told him she was a hand model when she was younger, and he noticed how balletic she made them, even with the simplest acts. That now she ran a vacuum cleaner repair shop, and if he said he bet it sucked, she'd crown him. They laughed and he saw she had something leafy between her teeth, but didn't know her well enough to mention it.
When there was a snag in the conversation, and those hands danced around the table touching things, lingering, he decided he didn't like the fake candle at all. Not because it wasn't interesting, but that he missed getting close sometimes and feeling the warmth, even the burn of the real thing. The way it moved with the slightest winds; the swing of an arm toward the salt. And that quick-vanishing flick of smoke when you blew it out. He liked that too.
Robert Scotellaro is the author of seven literary chapbooks. A collection of his flash fiction, Measuring the Distance, was published in 2012. His most recent is a book of micro fiction, Close As We Get Sometimes. His story, "Fun House" is included in W.W. Norton's anthology Flash Fiction International. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and currently lives in San Francisco. Learn more at www.rsflashfiction.com
"Cold Light" is a perfect piece.
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