Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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Flash Fiction
1113 words
SHJ Issue 14
Spring 2016

Another Look

by Molly Gillcrist

Here he is, rolling up the driveway almost half an hour early. Terry switches off the TV, jumps from her chair, runs through the kitchen—pausing to splash water on her face—and out to the backyard. There, she grabs the shovel and leans on it, not forgetting to use her free hand to redden her cheeks with a pinch. She can hear him enter the house and call her name.

“Oh, here you are!” Ray says as he comes out toward her. “Sweetheart! You’ve been doing too much again. Why don’t you ask the Whitman’s yard man to help?”

And why don’t you offer yourself, she thinks. When you do have free time, you go to the gym where you jump up and down, watching the bounce of your trainer’s boobs. Otherwise, you sift papers at your bank desk. That’s about all she knows about him now, and she wonders if other wives married this long are in the same state of ignorance. She does acknowledge that his desk-sitting brings in a bountiful income—more than enough for their needs, their wants, and for quarterly vacations anywhere in the world. She’s also quite aware that he isn’t particularly interested in the traveling she adores, that it’s a burden he takes on to please her, but she won’t give it up.

At least when traveling they have something to talk about and are sometimes intimate. Unlike his, her sex drive, at fifty-six, is still strong. At home he’s usually asleep before eight. She often feels she’s become just a useful household appliance he commutes back to. Actually, until his appraising scan just now, it’s been ages since he’s looked carefully at her, and she hopes he didn’t notice the brow and cheek wrinkles she so carefully plies with aloe each morning and night.

She doesn’t worry that he’ll leave her in some late middle-age attempt to stop time by taking off with a younger woman. She’s too much of an accommodating habit for him, and she doubts he has the nerve.

Should she provide herself with a lover? Months ago she noticed Charlie Medina eyeing her suggestively. He still does. Damn that Methodist upbringing—every Sunday she and her brother flanking their mother in the nave balcony, staring down at Reverend Hickman and his bald spot as he stood in front of the huge wooden cross on the wall behind him while spinning a sermon from a Bible verse. She remembers especially do unto others and judge not.

These platitudes don’t work for her today as she watches Ray approach. She feels assessment in his look, not only of her appearance but of her value. Is he wondering if she’s worth his fidelity and support? This question causes even more resentment at his catching her off guard and makes her wonder if he’s worthy of her being faithful to him.

For some time now, she’s felt liberated when he drives off toward the interurban station for Chicago. Why did she marry him those forty years ago? Was it just because she ached to have his strong slender hands on her? Young women now should give thanks every day for pills that take the pregnancy factor out of the decision to marry. But there must have been a reason other than sex. His deep brown eyes she saw herself reflected in? His ready smile? The fact that he was on the basketball team? She can’t remember. She hopes it wasn’t because many girls she knew were marrying and forming different ways to associate. Could she have been so stupid as to marry because she didn’t want to be left out?

But why is he early today and intruding into her time? Is it merely that the train made fewer stops than usual or that traffic from the station had no tie-ups? And why does she so resent his earliness?

The house is neat and clean, laundry done and put away, dinner about ready—most of the day has been spent seeing to his needs. She’s due some fritter! And it’s none of his business how she spends her free time. How dare he intrude on it!

She nearly laughs at how it would surprise him to find out she’s been reading Nin. He probably doesn’t even know who Nin was or what she wrote about. She almost laughs again to think how startled he’d be to reach for the last towel in the linen closet and come upon the Nin she’d hidden under it. But her laugh is stifled by shame and anger at being reminded of how much frittering she does.

There’s no question of her leaving him. With only two years of college—thanks to him—and no business skills, she has no way to support herself, and she would never abandon this high-ceilinged, beautifully windowed house whose surfaces she’s taken care of with both hands. This house is hers. She’s earned it.

She’s also earned their grown children. Sometimes she’s surprised he remembers their names. She did all the caretaking when they were young, and she’s the one who writes them letters now. Does he even know that Dick will be thirty-eight in two months or that Maureen turned thirty-five last January?

Ray continues his approach, smiling, looking as if he’s bringing some news. Has he decided to do something unexpected? Has he already done it? Is he going to retire early? Oh, god. That would be the ultimate infringement.

He’s talking now. He’s saying, “Guess what, sweetheart! I’ve decided to take a leave—a whole year away from the commute and the desk.”

“Wh...what?” How dare you, she thinks. “What would you do?”

“I don’t know yet. Just want to stop awhile and reassess.”

What will she do with him around all day? Should she try to arouse his interest in golf? He enjoyed it years ago. But would he expect her to walk the course with him? Nothing doing! She’ll find something rather weighty that needs to be done instead. She has to keep her space. Maybe she could volunteer somewhere. Perhaps she could serve meals at a downtown mission or chat with bedridden people at the retirement home three blocks away. How about something at the school for the blind—it’s less than a mile from the house. They might need someone to read to children there. And she wouldn’t drive. She’d give herself freedom time by walking to and fro.

Or, she thinks. If she’s going to be bound, why let it be here?

“I’m so glad,” she says. “You’ll have some free time. Now we can finally go to Machu Picchu, perhaps even Nara.”

SHJ Issue 14
Spring 2016

Molly Gillcrist

graudated magna cum laude from Duke University with a BA in English. After receiving an MA from the University of Virginia in speech pathology and audiology, she worked in that area doing evaluation and treatment at Kennedy Memorial Hospital in a Boston suburb. She subsequently worked in a public school system in the Portland, Oregon area as a speech/language specialist and developed ESL programs for the district. Gillcrist now volunteers in Portland through Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Start Making a Reader Today.

Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in apt, Chagrin River Review, Common Ground Review, Ginosko, Licking River Review, Midway Journal, Oregon English Journal, The Oregonian, and The Writing Disorder. She currently serves on the editorial board of the Oregon English Journal.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury