A Sigh Is Just a Sigh
Sean Lovelace

My Wife

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.

Ingrid Bergman

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 couldn't.

She said, "You ever seen a Nordic woman naked? Skin like fresh milk…"

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.

The Doorbell

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.

Humphrey Bogart

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 something?"

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 watching."

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 thinking how—

"Pssst," a shadow said, from behind a shrubbery. A young woman stepped out, scrawny, pale and sweating. She was barefoot and wore a tattered dress.

"What the hell?" I said.

She held up a red duffel bag and hissed, "I've got them. I have the papers."

The papers….

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 she's holding?"

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.

w i g · l e a F               09-10-08                                [home]