a literary journal of the fictional persuasion


Mitzi McMahon

Snapshot of Mitzi's story in print version.

I watch through the rusty-brown keyhole, watch her ribbed turtleneck and jeans drop to the floor, watch her test the water with a dainty toe before slipping first one long leg, then the other into the water. My knees protest the prolonged pressure from the hardwood floors and I curse, again, the padded dull green kneepad I'd left sitting next to my back door.

I carefully shift my weight onto the balls of my feet while adjusting my growing erection. Teri Lynn has this effect on me. I massage myself and allow a small smile, amazed at the amount of bubbles filling the white-blue space. I'd dreamt of this moment for weeks, had actually been this far three nights now. I'd stayed away from the library this last week, afraid I might say something to give myself away. Not that she'd pay me any attention. I am not interested in having a drink with you, she'd said, punctuating her announcement with the heavy thud of slamming books shut. She'd gotten up from the table and walked away, holding her head high. I love her feistiness. That she'd stopped, turned back to me and added, "Now, or ever," just made her look all the lovelier.

Outside, a dog barks and I wait, my hand on the doorknob. I concentrate on its raised edges to steady myself, the way the pronounced sharpness rubs against my palm every half-inch or so with a flat smoothness in between. I falter; the anticipation is too much. I consider turning back, being satisfied with this moment, reveling in the power it brings, but realize the need for her to give me a chance, to give us a chance, is too great.

In one fluid movement, I stand and throw open the door. The burst of wind sends a handful of bubbles into the air. Teri Lynn's eyes snap open and her head jerks toward me. She pushes up to a sitting position. Her eyes register confusion.

"Hello." My voice is soft, my grin wide.

Her mouth opens, closes.

"Have you missed me?"

"What the hell are you doing?"

"I thought we could have that drink now," I say and immediately recognize that I should have brought a bottle of wine with me. And real glasses, too, not flimsy plastic ones. That would have impressed her. The certainty of this sweeps through me and for half a beat I am pleased.

"Get out!"

"All in good time," I say, struggling to overcome my error. I notice the small room for the first time. A pile of purpley-brown potpourri sits in a shallow bowl on the vanity. A mirror on a tall stand with claw feet stands next to a dish of butterfly soaps. Framed pictures of bold, bright butterflies flank the towel bar. Too prissy, I decide.

Scattered over a white towel covering the toilet tank are tubes of lipstick, small vials of blue and brown eye shadows, and an assortment of makeup brushes, all with slender, translucent handles. I select a lipstick and remove the silver top. Rotating the bottom, a cylinder of sparkly raspberry color emerges and I hold it out to Teri Lynn.

"This is my favorite color on you," I say. "It makes your eyes shimmer like emeralds."

She doesn't respond, just sits with her arms crossed over her breasts. The ends of her brown hair are clumped together, forming distinct points, and rest on her freckled shoulders.

My confined erection is painful and I adjust it, enjoying how Teri Lynn's eyes grow big. Boiling rage erupts, though-at her for thinking I am only about sex, at myself for bungling the details, at the clouds shielding the full moon-and in a flash my hands are at her throat. I push her head under, hold it there. Her hands are wet, slippery, and struggle to find a grip on my arms. Her feet flail. Water and bubbles fly everywhere. I watch as her hair floats to the surface, watch as it frames her face like a halo while her eyes plead for mercy, for understanding.

When she stops moving, I slowly retract my hands. My shirt is soaked. I pull both towels from the towel bar and mop up the water from the floor, the walls, even the mirror above the sink. Feistiness has its down side, I decide. I hang my shirt on the peg attached to the back of the door then let my eyes fall onto Teri Lynn. The bubbles are gone. Her arms have risen, breaking the water's surface, her fingers splayed, the square, pink nails bobbing like bait. I'm surprised at the red tint evident in her trimmed pubic hair.

My erection has vanished and suddenly I'm tired.

In her bedroom, I kick my jeans off and slide onto the crisp, white sheets, pulling the beige chenille blanket up to my chin. I imagine how it'd be if we were lovers, if she'd invited me into her bed, wanted my adoration. I decide she probably snores. I push my arms and legs up and out, down and in, and again, pretending I'm making a snow angel. An angel like Teri Lynn.

I stare in the direction of the ceiling though the room is so dark I can't see it. I wait, listening to the sounds. Two car doors slam, muted as though several houses away; the engine roars before fading away. The outside wall groans softly against a gust of wind. Several minutes of silence prevail before I detect the faint hum of the furnace.

Suddenly I am wide awake, startled to realize I'd fallen asleep.

To my right, Teri Lynn's clock radio casts a dim red glow and I turn to look. Two-fifty-nine. I watch, waiting for the numbers to change. When it clicks over to three, I throw the covers off and reassemble my clothes.

In the living room, stacked neatly on a ladder-back chair, are four library books. I grab them and slip quietly out the back door.

© Mitzi McMahon 2004

Born in the south, Mitzi McMahon now lives one mile, as the crow flies, from Lake Michigan in Racine, Wisconsin, a city famous for its Danish kringle. Her work has appeared in Song of the Siren, Doorknobs & BodyPaint, edifice WRECKED and NFG and is forthcoming in The Citizen.

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