“Cold Shoulder”

He was still her living, breathing husband until that evening, when he came home late for the third time in a week, having never, not once, called to explain or apologize.  He stepped in from the garage carrying his ridiculous book bag, a small canvas satchel with cloth straps that made him look like he had a foot stuck in high school.  He sang out, “Wow, that smells good,” as if he had not arrived two hours late for the baked cod or the talk they had agreed to have—the one about stopping the birth control pills.

Seated at the kitchen island, she did not turn to look at him.  And when he—already warned—made the mistake of caressing her shoulder, sliding his too warm, too glib hand across the tense muscles there, that’s when he stopped being flesh and blood.  Transformed into salt-rock, he stood rigid, his hand pulled back as if pricked.  His raised eyebrows were alabaster, pale as the mineral blocks she had seen at her uncle’s feedlot.  His clothes too.  And that ridiculous bag where she had found the condoms.

Now it was all salt.  The condoms in their cellophane wrappers.  The phone with its mysterious number called over and over.  The bag.  His lifted brow.

Their terrier, frightened by this silent intruder, growled.  The little dog advanced, snapping at the straps of the brittle bag, breaking it off so that it shattered.  And somehow the mess didn’t bother her.  She didn’t mind sweeping up.  Who knew, maybe she could keep the bits in a garage bin.  Maybe, once crushed, she could keep the whole of him there and salt her driveway for the next five winters, or even ten.

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About Tim Bascom

Tim Bascom is the author of the novel Squatters Rites (New Day Press), and he has published short stories in Profane, Natural Bridge, Lalitamba, and an anthology from Main Street Rag. He is author of two memoirs as well: Running to the Fire (University of Iowa Press) and Chameleon Days (Houghton Mifflin), which won the Bakeless Literary Prize. Bascom, who received his MFA from the University of Iowa, is Director of Creative Writing at Waldorf University,