A Sigh Is Just a Sigh
claimed no one ever said "Play it again, Sam" in the movie Casablanca.
I told her no way that was true. No way are all these people going
around, quoting that line, cherishing that line, claiming that line as
theirs—and then it never existed at all.
"Look it up," she said flatly, and returned to the Scrabble board.
told me she'd sleep with any man who desired. And there had been
plenty. She slept with the majority of her costars on every film, most
of the directors, several costume designers, and once, for kicks, a
sound-effects editor—"helps me get into the role," she
argued. It didn't bother her at all. It was like taking a walk, "like
reading from a script," she said.
I was tempted. Oh god, I was tempted. Things like that don't just fall
into your lap, and, honestly, my blood thrummed with the possibility.
To put it plainly, it had been a while. But no, I told her, I just
She said, "You ever seen a Nordic woman naked? Skin like fresh
She said, "I'm more flexible than I might appear, I'll tell you that."
She said, "Are you jesting? Marriage? That's just the art of saying no."
She said, "Do you mind if I smoke? Do you mind if I place this
cigarette between my moist lips, and set it on fire?"
I told her actually I did mind. No tobacco smoke in the house, please.
She popped open her Zippo, lit, and inhaled. Blew a thin tunnel-cloud
into my ceiling fan. Said, "Well then, come over here and stop me."
Later that evening my wife said she smelled something in the house.
Those exact words: "I-smell-something."
"Ok," I said, and walked outside, to winterize the lawn.
rang. I suffer some strange phobia concerning visitors to the front
door, so whispered up to the peephole: a tall man, in a dull gray
military uniform, cap, belt, holster, what appeared to be a pistol.
"Choose!" he said loudly. "You must choose: a trick, or a treat."
I stood in silence, holding my breath.
"Attention! I am selling National
Geographic subscription, and decorative candles. For a
youth group. What kind of man would deny himself a glimpse at a larger
world, and an instrument to light the way?"
He shifted in the warming sunlight, took off his cap, scratched his
head. In the bedroom, the droning of water, my wife showering. She was
running late for a business trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The man re-rang the doorbell, and stood there, blinking. His voice
cracking a bit, he said, "Please open this door. I found your little
dog. Your little dog was running free, over the hills and the roadways.
Now I return him, so you can rope or chain him to your home, whatever
is your pleasure. He will wag his tail. Don't you want to see him wag
his tail, and call him happy?"
Strange, how time can bend and stretch. Minutes into hours, and so on.
The shower stopped, and a toilet flushed.
"Oh, you!" the man said, his face reddening. His hand dropped to his
holster, and my pulse kicked up. But then he paused, and shouted, "Oh
you of very bad faith!"
Like a child, he made a face at the doorway, a scrunched-up scowl, then
turned on his heels, marched up the street, and was gone.
woke fully clothed in the guest room and complained about my futon:
"Got a metal bar running down the middle. Hurts my back."
Actually, my futon frame was made of cedar. And had eight inches of
mattress foam. The industry standard is six inches. I paid extra. I
didn't tell him any of this. I just said, "You want some Pop-Tarts or
He gave me this look. "You see this face?" he said. "How do I get by
with this face? Looks like a potato."
I suggested many found his face handsome, in a rugged way.
He coughed, a dry rasping, and dug in his shirt pocket for a pack of
Chesterfields. He said, "You don't know squat, do you? But thanks for
the bunk. My wife is crazy. She'll be home right now with a knife, or a
gun. She has one. But a man needs to face what he's made for
himself, kid. I hope you're learning something here. I hope you're
I was watching. He lit a cigarette, and I said nothing. A siren rose
and fell in the distance. Or maybe the howl of a neighbor's dog. Bogart
rocked himself up from the futon, and stood wincing. Rubbed his left
knee and said, "Ever had your kneecap broken?"
I said I hadn't.
"Well, you will, one day. Sure as the rain. And you'll touch that place
your whole life."
rolled the garbage out on a Tuesday evening. A gigantic moon: silver
and crackling. The bin caught the curb-edge and toppled over. Overfull
as usual: Bisquick, a bag of stale croutons, empty bottles of
Zinfandel; and a coffee maker. We bought a new coffee maker, one with
pause-and-serve, and I had no idea what to do with the old one. I was
"Pssst," a shadow said, from behind a shrubbery. A young woman stepped
out, scrawny, pale and sweating. She was barefoot and wore a tattered
"What the hell?" I said.
She held up a red duffel bag and hissed, "I've got them. I have the
The porch light kicked on; the garage door screeched open, and my wife
appeared in the streetlight's pale wash.
"What's all this?" she said, squinting at the ground, the soda cans and
coffee filters. Then up, at the woman. "And who is she? What's that
I stood there. Felt the dew between my toes. Searched my mind
for words, phrases, some rising soliloquy. Looked to the young woman,
the duffel bag. Then to my wife, past her, to the blank face of the
house. Looming window-eyes. I could hear crickets sawing in the
grass—or the first stirrings of music, notes twinkling.
"Well," I said. "It goes like this…."
And in rolled the fog.
Sean Lovelace writes and reads and publishes flash fiction. He teaches
writing at Ball State University, a pretty great place.
That's about it.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200809sigh.htm
Read other work of SL's from the archive.
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