Michael Don

A woman I'm engaged to stands at my doorstep with a stack of newspapers. She hands me a copy then writes on her clipboard and asks for my name. I tell her it's the same as it was in Kindergarten, and she looks peeved, ready to skip across my yard to the next house. But I tell her I'm serious and if she doesn't believe me, then we can go up to the attic and I'll prove it.

She says she's tired of men like me who own their house and don't hate their wife, trying to get her tangled up in their business.   

"But I'm not so sure you and I ever broke it off," I say.
She laughs as if I'm just trying too hard, and then tells me the paper will arrive every morning by 5:45 and that's a guarantee. It's free for two weeks and at the end of the trial period she'll swing by again to follow up.

She proposed to me during naptime. I accepted the ring from her and slid it onto my thumb. She rolled off her mat onto mine and kissed the corners of my mouth.  I closed my eyes, so I couldn't tell what being kissed looked like, but it felt funny, like something monkeys might do. She proposed to every boy in our Kindergarten class. I was the only to say yes. I said yes because I didn't understand the question and yes seemed like a better answer than no.
This woman, I think her name is Ana, or Marie, or Ana Marie, asks me if that all sounds good. I tell her it sounds great. "I could stand to know what's going on around here."  

"Well, it's not much," she says. "If I had your money, I'd buy this gossip-making paper and turn it into a Chucky Cheeses, or something that makes people feel silly, not ashamed."

"I have to say, I'm surprised to see you."  

She nods as though she's heard this from everyone in town. In seventh grade she left. So did our history teacher, Mr. Oberman. They left the same day and never came back. The principal made an announcement about a new healthy eating initiative and everyone booed. That was all.

"Why don't you come in," I say, gently opening the door. "My wife wouldn't mind. We could remember people we used to know. I'll check the attic for our ring."

In the foyer she smiles at my wood floors, twisty staircase, framed photo of my daughters. I tell her to make herself at home and then run up the stairs. In the attic I dig through dusty boxes. Out the window I see her emerge onto my front yard. She stops and looks around, then holds her papers and clipboard between her knees as she collects her hair into a bun, then lopes across the street and disappears into Ms. Campbell's house, a middle-aged widow known for her generosity and fading memory.

Michael Don has stories in or coming from Hobart, Quiddity, Wag's Revue and others. He teaches creative writing at a university in Limuru, Kenya.

Detail of art on main page courtesy of Tarrytown.

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