March 15, 2015 by The Citron Review
by Barbara O’Byrne
On one side of a screen door, a man and a woman are fighting. Throats seared raw, choke back surges from deep inside.
Shut up. Shut the fuck up.
Cigarette cough and a snort.
He knows no other way to end it. She’s just as bad. Whines till she sets him off, sulks. Takes it.
It’s just him and her, a table between them, and nowhere else to lay the blame. One sinewy, bronzed arm propped on the back of a once-white chair. Fingers rake back stubborn shanks of chestnut hair. The other, crooked, elbow jutting in her direction. Index and thumb, yellowed and rough, pinch a Marlborough. He stares at the wall, desperate, bewildered by it all.
Like him, she wears jeans and a t-shirt, hers longer and in folds around her hips. Straight brown hair, tied back in a ponytail, a lingering memory of the girl left behind. Both hands cradle a mug of coffee left over from the morning pot. Eyes, shrewd from figuring, from making due, rise up sharp on him, soften into hazel moons.
His head cocks to hollow tapping at the screen door.
Is that damn kid here again? Why’ in hell he always send his boy around supper time. Shit!
He reaches in the pocket of his jeans and pulls five 20’s and a 10. She digs in a bulging cloth purse, puts 50 on the table.
What about the 60 you got from your sister?
I gave it to Marvin for his electric. He’ll pay me back Friday.
Tell’em we have more’n half; the rest when the check comes in.
The woman counts the bills, moves towards the door, slides a 10 in the pocket of her jeans.
Half today, half next week, ok?
The screen door rattles shut. He smokes a cigarette. She sips a coffee. The hollering stops. For a while.
Barbara O’Byrne grew up in Montreal. She spent many years in Quebec City and Toronto before coming to West Virginia. She teaches writing courses and directs the Writing Project at Marshall University. A proud member of the Wood Hollow Writers, her work has appeared in Perigee Publication for the Arts and Flash Fiction Magazine.