See and Know

I look around myself
Never spending much time in..
Easier to cast my eyes
Than knowing how I got to this place that I take in

I look around
Sometimes the words lie too much with me
Calmer more relaxed they would take their place
Open doors see a happier side
See my inability to extinguish lies

See and know
That you can’t take this picture from me
And god knows you tried

Because I have looked deep and around myself
And seen it here and now
That I’m glad to know you

* * * * *

David Mellor was born in Liverpool in 1964.He Left school with nothing, rummaging around various dead end jobs, he then went to college and university. In his 20s he first discovered poetry, and started writing and performing and has done so ever since. He has Lived on the Wirral for the past 8 years. His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Love, not lost

Let’s go to bed
Without a care
Or knowing that anyone else was there
Curl up quite
Pull our hands around us
Snug up tight
Those bastards from
the past won’t bite

Let’s go to bed
Without them there
There’s only me and
You who really care

* * * * *

David Mellor was born in Liverpool in 1964. He Left school with nothing, rummaging around various dead end jobs, he then went to college and university. In his 20s he first discovered poetry, and started writing and performing and has done so ever since. He has Lived on the Wirral for the past 8 years. His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

A Bird Calls

Graham NunnSomewhere, a bird, head thrown
back in the pink flush of
dawn, releases its careful
notes into the world.

And though I lay drowsing
unable to tell which species it is
it arrives at the window
like a gift of spring.

Once, I would have rushed
outside to name it —
insisted on knowing
the purpose of its call.

Now, with you curled
at my side, I thank
the bird and lie still
listening, not for answers —

there is something
sweeter than knowing —
a fullness, unimagined
in the morning sky.

* * * * *

Graham Nunn is a founding member of Brisbane’s longest running poetry event, SpeedPoets. He blogs fiercely at Another Lost Shark: http://www.anotherlostshark.com and has published six collections of poetry, his most recent, The First 30 and other poems (Another Lost Shark Publications, 2012). In 2010, his debut CD, recorded in collaboration with Sheish Money, The Stillest Hour, was shortlisted for the Overload Poetry Festival’s Aural Text Award. In 2011, Nunn was the recipient of The Johnno Award for outstanding contribution to QLD Writers and Writing. In 2013 Nunn has work forthcoming in the major anthology Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years and will release a new chapbook, I, land.

This is his first contribution to Snake-Oil Cure.

Guest edited by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke

Shopping List

Toothpaste ✓
Bread ✓
Marge ✓
Some flour ✓
Someone to love me…
Milk 
Biscuits 
Friends
That girl on the train
A dozen eggs ✓
Cheese ✓
Sex
Washing powder ✓
Cornflakes ✓
You

* * * * *

David Mellor was born in Liverpool in 1964.He Left school with nothing, rummaging around various dead end jobs, he then went to college and university. In his 20s he first discovered poetry, and started writing and performing and has done so ever since. He has Lived on the Wirral for the past 8 years. His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

(The Ghazals) – by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke and Martha Landman

https://i1.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8060/8239289188_6ac30f205c.jpg

I died for Beauty — but was scarce

— Emily Dickinson

Do I mourn my belovèd, and not move abstract nouns?
Roll-your-own sweep of the real world in an apothecary’s ounce.

Expressively, I travel the hot East & West ends, eating a volcano.
Hail, munchies are my God—I’m found on a daylight world on majoun.

A tin of dirt my heart’s palpitating talons the love after that’s unseen.
“Cinammon Girl” by Neil Young; a fool I’m twenty-five nights a roun.

Ehad, cloudy, five months on, I, Michael, a quixotic edifice discarded.
The angel gestured & I dropped her, and my debt, in the ocean towns.

*

Why am I forever saying
Words I do not mean?

–Edna St. Vincent Millay

Plagiarize love, in the absence of a decade of earth, leaking kisses.
Her amber fluid cries her belovèd steps sure-footed down the canal.

Supposedly impossible, the same One who created flies created him.
For a cheap flight open-mouthed dusk became night playing the infinite.

Hardly illicit flesh lingers cold a couplet goes on & — lays the gift.
I so like unbelief word upon word so become tired of brooding sentiment.

Pashmina wounded heralds a postmedia dawn.
A last love blind One doubled upon him dead.

*

From what stuff did He create him? From nutfa He created him

–Quran 80:17

Somebody’s got to take care of him, the King will protect her & love her.
The pattern is this: the image of these injured elements woven shut.

A greying feather slips from a composed mouth, & she reached a door.
A viscous future forms in bed @ night conceives a prisoner.

The raw cotton turbulence reached anapaestic order, incomplete—
Footloose, he rose then fell into a halfway, fountaining tangled feet.

One year, two years in a travel bag en route a Bulgarian harbour.
My scant wounds a black mirror simultaneously wishing poems.

* * * * *

This poem is a joint effort by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke and Martha Landman, from their recently published joint volume entitled The Paradoxophies. This volume also features a Prooemium written by Dr. Hurley Editor Emily E. Jones. The Paradoxophies can be purchased here.

* * * * *

South African born Australian poet Martha Landman now resides in Townsville.  Her work has appeared in Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure and The South Townsville micro poetry journal. Martha is a psychologist who loves all things writing and reading.

Her submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke has this year launched The South Townsville micro poetry journal and he welcomes submissions of a 30 lines or fewer poem from any of Dr. Hurley’s readers and contributors.  If Michael could have one wish in life, he would give that wish away. michael(dot)fitzgeraldclarke(at)gmail(dot)com. 

His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

The Woodcutter’s Stepdaughter

“Your hair is the break of day, the beauty of autumn.”

These might once have been her mother’s words, spoken as she brushed Scarlet’s hair each morning. With patience and love she would look into the eyes of her only daughter, her only child, her only family. Gazing at Scarlet she would look into the past. She would talk about Scarlet’s Papa, how she missed him, how they were when they were young, so free, so in love.

“Your skin is the falling of snow, but with the warmth of spring.”

These were words of love, but not her mother’s. That childhood was past. Her mother’s kindness was buried in bitterness and time and a marriage to the brawling Bûcheron, a man Scarlet was forced to call Father but could never call Papa.

“Your eyes reflect a summer’s sky with a sparkle from the North Star.”

These words of love were born of passion, the love of a lover, Benjamin, her dearest B’jou.

“They are like wolves. His kith and kin are low-born forest dwellers, little more than foragers. You should be done with him. The young men of the village are finer and would court you.”

These… these were her mother’s words, the jealous contradictions of the woodcutter’s beaten wife.

“I take it you have seen the ‘wolf’.”

Her grandmother greeted her at the door, smiling, knowing. Holding out freshly picked flowers, Scarlet blushed. Her late morning visits on market days had become lunchtime visits. Against her mother’s will, Scarlet would take the route through the woods to see her Benjamin, to stray from the path with her B’jou, before taking bread and fruit to her grandmother’s cottage.

“Why your mother hates him so, calling him such feral names, I do not know. Such strong hands, such a beautiful voice, such lovely big eyes. A kind and gentle man. Not like that drunken, hateful husband of hers. With my son she was carefree and beautiful; together they were such a couple. That Bûcheron brings out the worst in her. He has made her mean and cowering.”

That night her grandmother’s words fell in anger from Scarlet’s lips.

“Spoilt child! This wolf’s lechery and your grandmother’s doting affection have poisoned you against us!”

Her mother hit Scarlet, hit her and wept, hit her to protect her, hit her to prevent the woodcutter doing the same. He went to grab Scarlet by the hair, he moved to strike her, but looking her in the eye, he spat and left, disappearing into a darker night to drink.

He returned in the morning bringing with him a twofold tale of sorrow. Scarlet collapsed and cried, but through her grief her anger rose, rose and gave her strength to shout at him, to strike him, to tear into his lies with a passion born of love. He did not strike back. He had no need. The story, a story, was around the village. It was said, so they said, that Scarlet’s lover, her Benjamin, her dearest B’jou, had slain her grandmother as she slept; that the woodcutter had happened upon the cottage and tracked him down, closing the circle with his axe.

* * * * *

Kevlin Henney writes shorts and flashes and drabbles of fiction and articles and books on software development. His fiction has appeared online and on tree with Litro, New Scientist, Dr. Hurley’s Snake-oil Cure, Word Gumbo, Fiction365, Every Day Fiction, The Fabulist and FlashStories.net, and has been included in the Jawbreakers and Kissing Frankenstein & Other Stories anthologies. He is winner of the 2012 Oxford Flash Slam. He lives in Bristol, UK.

His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Young Lovers

.

here is something about those
young lovers at the park, shameless
about their public displays.

I blush, old fashioned, conditioned by
my middle class sensibilities.

They ignore me, locked in
a space of privacy that
my conspicuous gaze
cannot penetrate.

I wonder whether
to tap into their reverie,
breaking their concentration
with a mad howl.

My illogical plans clash,
a warning, intimating me
to the possibilities that
my own life lacks.

* * * * *

Sanchari Sur is a Bengali Canadian who was born in Calcutta, India. Her photography, poetry and short fiction have been published or are forthcoming in Map Literary, Barely South Review,Red River Review, Black Fox Literary Review, Urban Shots – Crossroads (India: Grey Oak/Westland, 2012) and elsewhere. Her short story, “Those Sri Lankan Boys,” was selected to be a part of Diaspora Dialogues Youth Mentoring Program in Toronto this year. You can find her at http://sursanchari.wordpress.com.

The Beauty of You

The moon wound, smell the sea, nostalgic memories, my first poem.

Mellow after light, the wrinkled blue purple bay, my inner prophet,
spreading into lines of poetry, writes through me, a poetry of my soul.

Winds of heaven blow across the heavens, waves clasp, I lay here, just
dreaming of being.

Sea, browning grey, white laced, under limitless sky, as time plays, life
moves on.

Face of the clouds, faces of the past, who I really am, you give, may together
we break through iron gate of life.

Seasons I have seen, hold fresh, blue, yet green, the beauty of you, so close,
so near, makes me think, as seasons do not fade.

* * * * *

Dennis Thomas is an Australian poet who resides in Canberra.  His work has appeared in The Lost Words, and The South Townsville micro poetry journal.  He is currently preparing his fourth collection. His contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

The Custard Legacy

1.

igel gloomily stared at his goldfish. They seemed not to notice him, or the debris littering his apartment: dirty saucepans, chocolate bar wrappers, milk cartons, and empty packets of custard mix.

“You’re not eating properly, are you,” said Ernesto, the greying Estonian condiment importer, and Nigel’s only friend. “I knew you weren’t, so I’ve brought you some rye bread herring and pickled onion sandwiches.”

Nigel took the sandwiches, began to munch, and waited for what he’d heard many times before. Ernesto dragged on a rancid smelling cheroot. “It’s not normal for a young man your age to lock himself away like you do. You should be out enjoying life, Townsville has much to offer young men, all those pretty girls with long legs out for a good time. Go out to Flinders Street East, don’t waste your time with this crazy obsession. You’ll never make it, and no-one cares anyway. Are you listening to me?”

Nigel munched a herring and pickled onion sandwich impassively. He always took what Ernesto said with a grain or three of salt.

“Lump-free custard is an impossibility. You hear me?”

“Yeah. That’s what they said about flight and space travel. Don’t you see Ernesto, I have a vision. I can see the day when I’ll be able to go into any restaurant in the world and order pudding with custard, and the custard won’t have any lumps. And it will be because of me.”

“But you’ll never get Rachael to like you,” sighed Ernesto.

Nigel reddened. Rachael, the ex-Miss Universe, was the daughter of Clive Palmfrond, the iconoclastic self-made coal billionaire, and Nigel had been in love with her since he met her at a Gala Soufflé at the Jupiters Casino in late 2009, after Ernesto had offered him a complimentary ticket he’d been given, then twisted Nigel’s arm hard for over three weeks before the event to persuade him to go.

“She’s just a tart,” Ernesto went on. “Look what happened when you gave her your blancmange recipe.”

“Yes, I was a trifle disappointed,” Nigel admitted, “I was hoping she’d at least tell me what she thought of it.”

“She’ll have thrown it straight in the bin you soft-headed dimwit.”

“I don’t know why I’m friends with you. For goodness sake put out that wretched cheroot. What I need is an excuse to talk to her,” Nigel continued, looking glum. “Maybe I could ask her over to feed my goldfish . . .”

“Look Nigel, take my word for it. She is not interested in you. No-one will ever be interested in you until you cure yourself of this ridiculous obsession with custard.” Ernesto spoke with the authority of years in the condiment business.

“Maybe if she knew how I felt. Ernesto, I’m going to visit her.”

“You’re making a big mistake . . .”

2.

Three hours later Nigel knocked on the door of the Palmfrond family villa in North Ward, nestled near the top of Castle Hill. The spectacular view was the last thing on his mind, though.

A valet answered the door. “Yes?”

“May I see Rachael please?”

“Whom shall I say is calling?”

“Nigel.”

The look on the valet’s face suggested he thought Nigel belonged in the kitchen tidy. “Please wait one moment sir.”

By the time he came back Nigel was having second thoughts about the whole thing, but it was too late for turning back.

“Come this way sir.”

The moment he saw Rachael, the little courage he had left evaporated.

“What do you want?” she said brusquely.

Nigel saw his life pass in front of his eyes.

“um . . . er . . . um . . .”

“Well, what is it? Hurry up, you’re keeping me from brushing my hair.”

“. . . um . . . um . . . Rachael-I-think-you’re-really-nice-and-please-would-you-like-to-come-to-a-plum-pudding-tasting-with-me-next-week-please-if-you’re-not-doing-anything . . .”

Nigel looked at the floor, crimson and shaking like a strawberry jelly. The look Rachael gave him was withering. If he’d been a dog, all his fur would have fallen out instantly.

“If you were like everyone else and read the Bully, you would know I got engaged last month to Jeremy Robertson-Davies. Jeremy’s a real man, not like you, you mealy-mouthed wimp. You’re nuttier than a packet of cashews. Get out and don’t come back.”

Nigel felt desiccated.

“But Rachael, I . . .”

“You want some advice? Go find a big compost heap and bury yourself in it.”

“. . .but . . . please, I . . .”

“If you don’t get out of here right now I’ll tell Watkins to turn the Alsatians on you.”

“. . .but . . . please . . .”

“Watkins!”

3.

hat has Jeremy Robertson-Davies got that I haven’t?” a dejected Nigel asked Ernesto some time later.

“Well, for one thing he’s the national hang-gliding champion. For another he’s a mauve belt in Ju Kwando. I’m warning you Nigel, if he finds out you’ve been bothering Rachael your life won’t be worth living.”

“It’s not anyway. Doesn’t she realise I could make her the happiest girl alive?”

“You’re always feeling sorry for yourself. If I looked at the world like you do I would never have become a successful condiment importer.”

“All right. What do you think I should do?

“The first thing is to forget about custard. No-one eats custard any more, they either eat health food, like I import (Nigel rolled his eyes), or McDonald’s. You need special help, my friend. I know a good doctor . . .”

4.

Three weeks later Nigel walked in to the rooms of Dr. Sigmund Floyd.

“Lie down on the couch my boy. Now tell me, what’s the problem?”

“I don’t know where to start . . . for as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in custard . . . when I was a teenager I never did the things normal boys do, I shut myself away and read cookery books . . . it got so I couldn’t cope with people, only packets of custard mix. Are you related to the TV chef? . . .”

Nearly an hour passed.

“. . . then I met Rachael, and though I really liked her I was so afraid all I could do was give her a blancmange recipe. I can’t go on like this. What’s wrong with me doctor?”

“Well my boy, you are suffering from a severe case of White-Wings-osis.”

“What’s that? Can I be cured?”

“It’s a very rare illness. But you have the classic symptom: an abnormal obsession with custard. Unfortunately it cannot be cured.”

“Will I die from it doctor?” Nigel was close to tears and whiter than a litre of milk.

“I can’t say. But perhaps if you told this young lady Michelle she might understand. That will be $450, payable by cheque, Bankcard, or cash. I prefer cash.”

5.

s always in Nigel’s apartment, the curtains were drawn shut. Ernesto helped himself to a square of Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut and waited. He had a reasonable idea what was coming next.

“If I’m going to die anyway, I might as well do it.”

“Nigel, Nigel, I don’t have a son and heir. I don’t know why most of the time, but I like you, and I want you to have my business after I’m gone. There’s an old Estonian fairytale about a boy, a wolf, and a plot of radishes. In the end, notwithstanding the wolf, the boy gets the plot for perpetuity. This latest idea is pure insanity. One radish in the ground is worth fifty-five dead wolves. Don’t you see this?”

“Not really Ernesto. Listen to me. July 8 is Rachael’s twenty-fourth birthday. I went to Willows yesterday . . .”

“Well thank God you’re at least getting some sun,” Ernesto interrupted.

“. . . and bought the Bully, and she’s having a party at Jupiters to celebrate. I’m going to go, and I know this time I can win her heart, because since I saw that doctor friend of yours, I’ve been working twenty-three hours a day on something that will make me, and her, the richest and happiest couple on the planet.”

“She’s not short of a dollar, and what about Jeremy Robertson-Davies? That’s assuming you get past the security on the door.”

“Minor details, Ernesto. Trust me, this time, it’s life or death. I have the confidence of a wizard with the whisk . . .”

6.

“Where’s your invitation? And what is with that sports bag?” a burly man in a tuxedo asked Nigel.

“One moment, it’s in my pocket.”

Nigel put his hand deep into the pocket of his best slacks and pulled out what appeared to be a small bottle.

“Please leave before I . . .”

Nigel took the top off the bottle and thrust it into the security man’s face. A custard-like aroma filled the air. Suddenly the security man was wearing a stupid grin. In Nigel strode, a man on a mission.

Next stop the Men’s near the gaming tables. In the privacy of a cubicle, he pulled a large canister out of the bag. Fully armed now, he took a last look in the mirror, gave his wayward curly hair one more comb, and rejoined the action.

He entered the crowded ballroom.

“Behold the angel of the yellow skies!” he yelled at the top of his voice.

Everyone instantly froze, then quickly turned around to see the source of the whoop.

Nigel quickly unscrewed the canister, and every last person began to swoon. “What is that sublime fragrance?” “Come here, you gorgeous man, I need more of that.” “Young man, you’re the most wonderful son-in-law-to-be I’ve ever seen; I want you to come home with me after this and you can really get to know my daughter,” opined Clive Palmfrond . . .

“Nigel, Nigel, wake up, what’s wrong with you? It’s 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon.”

“Um, Ernesto? Where, where am I?”

“You must have slept for three days and nights. I’ve been so worried about you. Nigel, have you been snorting? Be honest.”

Nigel, still only just awake, looked sheepish. “Since Dr. Floyd, I’ve decided to live on the edge. If Curt Kobain could use a shotgun, I can sniff custard gas.”

“Custard gas?!”

“Yes, forget cashew oil, it’s the most lethal intoxicant known to humankind. And I know how to make it.”

“You never told me.”

“There’s lots I don’t tell you, Ernesto. You think all these experiments I do here don’t come to anything . . .” Nigel’s words trailed off in the semi-darkness.

“I don’t know what to say.” And for once Ernesto genuinely was speechless.

“I’m an addict. There’s no hope now.”

Ernesto crossed himself and muttered something in Estonian.

7.

afe Bambini in North Ward was busy as usual at a Saturday breakfast time. Ernesto took his numbered stand and rejoined his friend Carlo. “It was a bad business, Carlo. There were only three mourners, myself included.”

“Don’t trouble yourself too much. Think condiments. There’s an old Croatian proverb about a man whose best friend went to China, made his fortune in the soap trade, came back to the motherland and slipped into a well and died. Things happen in life.”

An American girl, probably a traveller working there temporarily, brought them their coffees and took the metal stand.

“I loved that boy. It’s strange, you know. When I packed up his apartment I found a manuscript in a box under his bed. It was streaked yellow, and stank of custard, but I’ve read it, and to me it is an excellent, an exceptional read. Perhaps I should send it to a publisher.”

“What’s it about? My niece Wanda works for a publishing firm in LA, and she might be able to advise you.”

“It’s strange, Carlo, like he was. A fantasy novel set in a kitchen that reminded me of the Estonian author Eliisabet Väljas. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Every Estonian knows her avant garde play The Dark Green Uncle.”

8.

“Do you, Jeremy, take this woman, Rachael, to be your lawfully wedded wife, for as long as you both shall live?”

“I do.”

“Do you, Rachael, take this man, Jeremy, to be your lawfully wedded husband, for as long as you both shall live?”

“I do.”

“I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

The kiss. Mrs Palmfrond began to sniffle. Clive barely successfully tried to suppress gas.

9.

“Ray, have you got a minute?”

“Yeah Wanda, what’s up?”

“Can I ask a favour? Would you mind having a look at this?”

Wanda gave her colleague a wad of photocopied sheets. “I’ve read this, and I’d like to know what you think.”

“I haven’t got a lot of time.”

“Pleeese.”

10.

“If you don’t finish your homework James, your father won’t drive you to your Ju Kwando class tomorrow.”

“But mum, I’ve read this book twice, and I just don’t get it. It’s like shagged.”

“Don’t use that word. Do you know what it means?”

“We all say it. It means like what your foot feels like when you step in dog shi . . .”

“Shut up! Jeremy, can you come here a minute. Your son needs a talking to.”

“What’s up?” Jeremy didn’t like anything to interrupt his watching his favourite detective series.

“Dad. Listen. I might be good at physics and the best at Grammar at rowing, but English just no way. Here, you read this stupid book.” James threw the book at his father and stormed out.

“Let him go, sweet.” Rachael gave Jeremy a resigned look. “I think he’s got girls on his mind.”

“What is this book that they’re studying anyway?” Jeremy asked.

“I don’t know.” Rachael picked it off the kitchen floor. “The Custard Legacy – oh my God!”

“Honey, what’s up?”

“Nothing,” Rachael quickly replied. “It’s nothing. Really.”

Keen as he was to return to “Inspector Tex”, Jeremy didn’t push the point, and returned to their home theatre.

Rachael resolved to go to Mary Who? – and soon.

11.

looked at the packet and my flesh began to burn. The room was turning yellow and spinning and Rachel stood naked before me and I knew the world began and ended in this kitchen and as our lips locked I saw billions of custard lakes and the moon had descended into the room and at this moment I knew I was alone with my custard self and Rachel and then my erection began to fountain custard and our bodies were whisked into a time when there was nothing except the history the prehistory the timeless future of this custard moment.

Rachael was transfixed by the beauty of this incredible work. Jeremy was still downstairs in the home theatre. Her hand slipped between her thighs and her fingers began to explore. What if. What if.

She perhaps imagined it, but suddenly, just a faint whiff of custard.

Tiles

.

ometimes when Jessica is sleeping, Kyle thinks of ways that he could kill her.  It would be easy, with a pillow or with the knife she insists on keeping in the nightstand in case of intruders.  She’s scared that they’ll come so close to her that she’ll need something powerful, like a knife, instead of just her cell phone to call 911.  She watched the E! special about unsolved murder mysteries last Sunday and knows that everybody is not what they seem.  She watched the show lying on her stomach with her nose stuffed in the musty, pilly brown pillows that line their couch, and she lifted her eyes just high enough above the fabric to see a middle-aged overweight actor re-creating the murder, going into a house of the woman he was about to kill.

“The children were in the house,” the narrator of the show said.  “In the house,” Jessica heard the narrator whisper more softly, for effect.

Jessica got up off of the couch and walked into the kitchen where Kyle was doing a crossword, sitting on top of the counter like he always did.

“The kids were in the house when he shot her,” Jessica told Kyle, pushing past him to get into the cabinet where the Cheez-Its were.  “Isn’t that horrible?”  A Cheez-It crumb flew out of her mouth and landed on the counter next to Kyle’s thigh.

“That’s horrible,” he said, and folded the crossword over so he could only see the “Across” prompts and finish them first.  “People are sick.”

Their kitchen always smelled slightly of cat food and bananas, even though they didn’t have any cats.  The people who lived in the house before them did, though, which Jessica found out shortly after they’d moved in the year before, when she was looking in her closet for shoes. They were still unpacking and she was expecting, after four years together, to find a ring hidden underneath a suitcase or shoved in a sock drawer, but she didn’t. Instead she found the height markers.

“What is this?” she’d asked, crouching over to see the marks on the doorjamb, little lines with numbers next to them.  Eight inches, nine inches, 11.5 inches. The numbers were written with black marker but the lines were scraped into the woodwork.  Kyle hadn’t been home so Jessica had talked to herself, like she always did when she was alone, and sometimes did when she was with others.  “They’re too small to be kids’ markers.”

They were for the cats.  Jessica had found gravestones in the backyard for the cats and then realized that the markers in the house were for their growing, too.  There were none marking the children’s growth spurts.  Only the cats.

“I want cats, one day,” Jessica had told Kyle.  “Do you?”

Kyle had shaken his head, no.

Jessica also likes to watch infomercials, even though she refuses to buy anything on them. When the E! specials are over on Sunday mornings, Jessica flips the channels until she gets to the ones advertising the onion choppers and closet miracle hangers. Her favorite is the P90-X.

“I want that,” Jessica said the first time she saw it on the infomercial. The girl on the screen was ripped, too ripped, thought Kyle, and her muscles bulged out of her tiny sports bra and skintight biking shorts as she demonstrated how she got rock-hard abs in just 90 days.

“Why? She looks horrible.” Kyle sat next to Jessica on the couch and reached behind him to open the blinds.

“Don’t,” she said, “there’ll be a glare on the screen.” She moved closer to him and curled her legs up on the couch. He put his palms on the fabric, feeling the pilly covering as he adjusted himself closer to her, too. Jessica pulled the box of Cheez-Its nearer to them and delicately ate one.

“I guess I shouldn’t eat Cheez-Its if I want rock-hard abs like that girl,” she said, putting the box on the other side of Kyle so she couldn’t reach it.

It was stale in their house and Kyle badly wanted to open the blinds but he knew Jessica liked these Sunday mornings, lazy, dark.

“You don’t need rock-hard abs,” Kyle said, reaching his arm around her waist and pulling her tighter. “I love you.”

Kyle could see Jessica smile under her mass of curly red hair, which was snaking its way up into his face as she put her head on his shoulder. Jessica told him once that she’d fallen for him because he’d never tried to imagine what she could be like, if she were someone else.

He imagined that was probably the only reason she’d stayed.

* * * * *

.

ometimes when they’re lying in bed and Kyle is thinking of ways that it would be so easy for her to die, Jessica plops over onto her back and sighs, rubbing her eyes in her sleep a little bit, and Kyle’s stomach drops and he wishes that he didn’t even think about her dying.

Kyle gets out of bed and picks up the socks that Jessica left on the ground, going downstairs to get breakfast.  He sits on the counter and does the crossword with one hand while eating a granola bar with the other.  The counter is cold because it’s November and New Hampshire, but Kyle doesn’t mind because the bedroom was way too hot and stuffy.  He doesn’t want to go skiing today.

The house is dark and dingy.  It was built in the ‘60s and there are still some of the original carpets there, the kind that creep up into your feet and up past your ankles when you walk on them, or maybe your feet sink into them.  Either way, you shrink a little bit, and for some reason it’s always wet.  Every surface is laced with a layer of dew, at all times of the year.  Kyle reaches down from the counter and feels the wetness of the table and the wetness of the floor, his feet bare and getting wet against the cold tan kitchen tiles.

Jessica wants him to sleep with her on the kitchen floor.  She’s said this before, and he knows it, but he’s been waiting for the right moment for it to happen.

“Like in When Harry Met Sally,” she’d said, “how she says they never have sex on the kitchen floor, even though they’re able to and have no kids, because the floor tiles are so cold.  I want to do that, one day.  Like your elevator fantasy,” she winked, “my kitchen floor fantasy.”

Kyle pulls his pajama pants looser around his stomach and puts a bucket of flowers on the counter.  He picked them the day before but didn’t put them in water yet, forgot them on the counter. They’re daisies because that’s what Jessica likes and because that’s what’s left in the field outside their house, for some reason, even though it’s November.  He wants to make it special for her. The bucket is the blue one they got when they went to Hampton Beach last year, some shitty yellow handle that almost broke off right after Kyle won it at one of the boardwalk games.

She comes downstairs with her hair curly and frizzy.  He told her once that her hair looked like Robert Plant’s in the morning, but she didn’t like that, so he’d grabbed her hair and twisted it in her fingers, kissing her hard and long.

“It’s a compliment,” he’d said in between breaths, “I love your hair.”

When she comes into the kitchen, she pulls her hair back into the elastic she’s taken to keeping around her wrist while she sleeps, but she misses a strand and it stays stuck to her cheek in a frozen red curl.

Kyle puts down his granola bar and wipes a piece of chocolate off the corners of his mouth, thinks he probably should have brushed his teeth if he really wanted to make this perfect, but he wraps his arms around her waist, just a little low on her hips so he can feel the bulge of her butt underneath his fingers, and leans down to kiss her, tasting her mouth of Listerine and Chinese food from last night, but he doesn’t care, not really.

He pushes her against the counter and then thinks that this will be difficult, to get down onto the kitchen floor gracefully without dropping her, so he sort of slides her down, pushing her back against the cabinets to keep his balance, feeling the bumping of her body as they glide over the doorknobs of each cabinet.

“Ow,” she says, pulling away and rubbing her back, but he just smiles and puts his hands behind her back to cushion the cabinet doorknobs and to warm the cold, wet floor tiles.

“What is this?” she mumbles between moments, and he doesn’t think that he needs to answer because she should already know, she should know that this was coming, that he’d been planning it since she mentioned it three months and two days ago, like he plans everything, with her, because he loves her.

* * * * *

.

.
hen Kyle thinks those things about smothering Jessica with the pillow or cutting her with her own knife, he feels terrible, because he knows that he’d never do it, yet for some reason, he wonders what it would be like to watch her die.  He wonders if it would feel like he was dying, too, because that’s what it always seems like in the movies.

Jessica looks over at him driving. She smiles, her hair straightened and tamed for the day.  She squeezes his thigh and he remembers why he could never smother her with a pillow.  But he thinks of driving off the road, like in Thelma and Louise, one of many chick flicks that Jessica’s made him watch.  He wonders if she knows that these chick flicks stay with him because they’re all tragic; but nothing in their relationship is tragic, he tells himself. He knows.

“You okay?” she asks, and squeezes a little tighter.  She loves him but she shouldn’t; if she knew what he was thinking, she wouldn’t.

“Yeah,” he says, and stops at a stop sign half covered in snow.  It’s barely winter but up here there’s snow almost all the time, and he can feel the wheels trying on the ice.  He’s used to it.

Jessica’s ski gear takes up most of the backseat, but Kyle doesn’t take much with him to go skiing.  Just a hat and gloves, sometimes a helmet.  Jessica takes two pairs of ski pants and two jackets, just in case, and a hat and earmuffs and toe warmers.

She smells like the mac and cheese they had for lunch as she leans over and whispers in his ear, “I love you,” and she’s so close he can feel the moisture from her words.

“I’m thinking bad things,” he says in return, staring ahead at the windy, salt-covered road and trying not to think about what it would be like if her heat wasn’t next to him in the passenger seat.

“Stop,” she says, pulling back and squinting at him, used to him saying this, now. She knows everything.  “Just don’t think them.”

“I can’t help it.”

“You don’t actually want them though, right?” she asks.

He shakes his head.  “No,” he says.  But then that’s lying, because sometimes he does want them.  Sometimes he does want to know what it would be like to feel her loss, to feel her slipping and slipped away, just to see how people would react to him.  Sometimes he does want to see her dog get sick, just to be able to show her how much she means to him by making her feel better.  To show her how much he’d be there.  Sometimes he wants her sister to get in a car accident, so he can show up at the hospital faster than anyone else.

“Yes,” he says instead, “I don’t know.  Sometimes I do, but not really,” he says quickly.

She takes her hand from his thigh and puts it in her lap, staring at him with wet eyes.

“I don’t,” he says, “not when I really think about it.  Just when I sort of do, in the hypothetical.”  But she’s not listening because she’s heard what he said and what he’s said before, many times, now.  “I love you,” he says, softly, because that’s all that’s left, and she either believes him or she doesn’t.

“You need to stop,” she says in reply this time, her mascara running but her eyes not red, clear white.

“I know,” he says.  He tells her these things not to hurt her, but because he thinks that if she knew what was going through his mind, she wouldn’t love him back, and maybe he should tell her so that she knows everything, absolutely everything, about him.  That way she can decide for herself if she loves him, all of him, even the bad, horrible parts of him. That’s why he always tells her these things.

“It’s going to make me love you less,” she says, and he expects her to speak softly, or whisper, but she doesn’t.  She says it loudly, almost too loud for the small car, almost too loud for this road and this state and these ski mountains.

* * * * *

.

he ski path gets more crowded as Kyle tries to think of ways that he can make it up to her, because he does love her, so much that it hurts.  Kyle hates skiing.  He hates the coldness on his face and how the snow gets everywhere, inside ski boots and hats.  Jessica told him once that if he brought more gear, like she did, he’d be warmer and then maybe he’d like it more.

She’s ahead of him, and he can see her below him on the trail.  She’s beautiful.  He can’t see her face but he can see her hair, red and curly underneath her blue helmet, her blue ski pants, blue jacket.  She skis faster than some of the little kids but always lets them go first anyways, because she knows how much they love that.

Kyle tries to call to her, but she can’t hear him over the kids’ yelling and the wind on the mountain.  It’s cold and he can see all of the trees below, and almost the lodge, but not quite because it’s so far down.  There’s a string on the inside of his right glove that he can feel loosening, and he tries to pull it but it won’t come out.  He fiddles with it, twirling it around in a tiny knot inside his glove’s fingertips, back and forth, feeling the smooth strong crease of the string against his fingers.

“Jessica,” he yells again, but she still doesn’t hear him.  She waves him on, waiting for him halfway down the mountain, after the fork in the paths.  This fork is why people come to this mountain; you can ski down one way with one person and one way with the other, but all of the forks end up in the same place at the bottom of the hill.  She’s chosen the middle one, like she always does, because it’s the easiest for Kyle.

He thinks about what would happen if a snow groomer plowed into her, right in front of him, as she waved him down.

He tries not to think about what would happen, but he can’t.  He gets hot beneath his ski jacket and begins to get dizzy, fuzzy, and he knows he needs to tell her, has to tell her what he’s thinking because what if he doesn’t tell her, and then she feels the same about him, but if he chooses to tell her, and after hearing, she feels differently?  It’s not fair to her to have to love most of him and not know the other horrible parts of him, those thoughts that come into his head and he can’t seem to shake.

Jessica’s hat is a lighter blue than her ski coat, and she stands out against the white of the mountain and the myriad of red and black ski coats darting past her.  She tilts her head a little bit, gesturing harder this time, come down, I’m waiting.

All he can picture is her own scene from Final Destination, or Thelma and Louise, or The Shining, Jessica dying in a million different ways right in front of him on the ski slope, trapped in coldness and ski gear and snow, wet and freezing beneath his fingers.

* * * * *

Alessandra Siraco recently graduated Trinity College and is currently an M.F.A. student at Emerson College.  She is working on her writing while employed in the insurance industry.  She most enjoys writing short stories, reading anything, shopping, and drinking coffee.  Alessandra is from Boston and, although she doesn’t sport a Boston accent, she loves everything about the city.