Mrs. B. doesn’t know Mr. D. that well, not sure she wants to, although in dim light he’s not half bad. Drunk, they’d fake-tangoed at a mutual friend’s wedding in the hotel ballroom. Then he fuck-danced two of her friends, so she left for the rooftop bar. Soon, his voice. What’s crackalackin’? Grinning like salvation, arms wide, two plastic flutes sloshing champagne. Does that mean he likes me, Mrs. B. puzzles. When she moved to London after the divorce, conversations and crosswords and charades paralyzed her. She hadn’t a clue about who or what or when. When she moved back, she was doubly stumped. She feels safest sticking to her grandfather’s old phrases, rooted in her chest. He crooned rather than spoke, chirped words like crikey and wet your whistle. Phrases flew out of his mouth like starlings heading for telephone wires or half notes on wavy staffs. Close to his cirrhotic end, he joked about the pine overcoat he’d soon be wearing.
Mrs. B. repeats his words to keep him alive, tucks them under her tongue until it’s time to let go. But Keep it under wraps! scared and scarred her, accompanied as it was by scowls and growls when he’d catch her finding him in the basement, sneaking into his bottle. She’ll never utter those words, but she now wraps whatever she can. Before she leaves for work, she casts a protective shimmering light over her studio apartment, herself, and her patent leather bag. Inside that bag, she keeps only objects that are wrapped: butterscotch candies in cellophane, a lipstick in a gold case, credit cards in a zippered pouch. And words, grandpa’s words: hydrant, cycle, tomorrow, or. There are words holding hands: cat’s pajamas, bee’s knees, tickety-boo, chin wag. Her heart, swathed in purple tissue. Everything inside of something, all inside her bag.
Mrs. B. sets her Manhattan back on the bar, takes the flute from Mr. D. She is slow to uncoil, to unhinge her joints, to stretch her leggy bones. She leans back, drinks the scene in with the bubbly—the bar, the fellow, the sliver of moon overhead. Mrs. B. notes Mr. D.’s slicked-back hair, the smell of Bay Rum aftershave, his boutonnière and moonwalk flirtations. Pieces click into place. Crackalackin’ has curled into her ear, nestles there. He’s a fool, but he could be my fool, she thinks, unpeeling her shawl from her shoulders.
work appears in The Ekphrastic Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Intima, Thimble Literary Magazine, London Reader, SurVision, Rogue Agent, Popshot Quarterly, The South Shore Review, The Fortnightly Review, Feral, The Phare, Sledgehammer Lit, Flash Boulevard, New World Writing, and elsewhere. She has several Pushcart nominations and one for Best Microfiction 2022.