“Two Flash Pieces”

Linger

The alien at the foot of my bed asks—telepathically—for a piece of fruit, preferably a banana. For the past five nights, the green shimmering light of his body has filled my bedroom, waking me. Last night he inquired about apples. I was out. He settled for a pear.

Soon, everyone’s talking about that green light that eases them from sleep—how the aliens reach out skinny arms, nest palms, and wait.

“You’re not a little freaked out?” I ask Marcy, a coworker.

“Freaked out like how?”

“Yeah, like how?” Desmond chimes in from the reception desk.

“How they appear,” I say, “and stare until you wake-up?”

“What would you have them do?” Marcy says, making me feel like the odd man out.

That evening, Marcy’s parting words—“Don’t be such a stick in the mud”—repeat in my mind until my bedroom pulsates green. I sit up, smile, then reach for the bowl of clementines.

 

“Does your little fellow sing?” Marcy wants to know. Mine does not. She says maybe he’s just nervous, still getting to know me.

All the aliens, save mine, are singers. And I wonder why my guy is holding out.

Just after 2 AM, and I’m awake. Downstairs, my fridge is stocked with passion fruit, kiwis, tangerines. Now a green light pinpricks the darkness, wheels and expands, creating a portal from which my guy steps out. I’m ready with a bowl of kiwis. He reaches out green toothpick arms, plucks a single fruit from the bowl, and offers thanks using his telepathy. Down the hatch it goes; I lean against a stack of pillows, wait. I think back to Marcy and Desmond from the office, how they say the aliens adore The Cranberries—how they belt out songs spanning the band’s entire catalogue, how their voices are quite lovely and peculiar. I love the Cranberries! I told them, already whittling down my list of favorites.

Now my guy reaches out for the last of the fruit—culled from a mound of subpar kiwis, these being the gems of the bunch—and down it goes. The green pinprick spins, and I know my alien’s about to portal his ass out of here. Without singing. For the eighth night in a row.

“Is it me?” I say, but he’s already backing away, leaving me with the cold empty bowl between my thighs.

 

“I can’t imagine sleeping without that singing,” Marcy says, her wide eyes almost shimmering green…or yellow…or green-yellow, hell, maybe they’re blue. I haven’t slept in days. No lullabies for me.

“My headaches are completely gone,” Desmond says, springing from his chair. “You remember my headaches right?”

Marcy does, and she goes on to list a series of ailments since relieved.   

 

The next morning, I call out sick. Download all six Cranberries albums. I lower the shades, blast “Zombie” and “Dreams” and “Ridiculous Thoughts”; dance naked; drop to the floor and do pushups till my arms shake and chest is blotched red from the carpet.

My guy strolls through the portal at 3:16 AM. When he flashes his palms to beg, I leap from mattress, wrap arms around his lithe waist, and wrestle him to the floor. His child-like body is no match for my 180 pounds. Forearm pressed against his throat, lips to his temple, I whisper, “Sing for me.” He shoots garbled messages into my head; from the jumble I discern shy and no good. I push my knee into his back, and his throat flutters against my arm, a bird flapping its wings for the first time, a fawn’s wobbly first steps. The first line of “Linger” streams from his lips. And my god, can my guy sing! Yes, yes, I say, keep going! …such a fool for you…violins surge around us…do you have to…and I’m convinced no other alien can belt it out like my guy…wrapped around your finger…forget goosebumps, I’m sobbing…“Keep singing!”…but I was wrong…my arms coil tighter, and how can I ever go back to The Cranberries, the mp3, the human voice?…now he’s back to verse one…tearing me apart…and I spot a tangle of extension cords near the computer, then start dragging him across the carpet, pressure on his throat and back—to let him know I mean business—and all I can think about is seizing those electrical cords so my guy never slips through his portal again. And even when the green light vanishes, the body limp beneath me, I grope for those heaped electrical cords.

 

Prior to Sentencing, Debra Delivers a Monologue  

Donny called it baby-bird-play. I remember thinking, okay, that’s weird; but if it raised my hubby’s spirits, then I was willing to try most anything. After Donny got canned from the middle school, things went south pretty quick. And god did he get fat! Not that I worry about looks or anything, but it’s just unhealthy, you know? So I told Donny his moping days were through—that I’d go ahead and cancel the cable TV if that’s what it took to get his butt unglued from the sofa. You hate seeing your husband in a downward spiral like that. Just last year, we celebrated his 20-year anniversary as a member of Jacob’s Middle School janitorial staff; we went out to this Asian place downtown, and Donny put on a tie and everything. I ordered a California roll and saké; Donny got the chicken.     

So a wife does what she can. Besides, I wouldn’t be the one on the floor with my head tilted back and mouth open. I was going to be the one chewing the food and spitting into his mouth. Didn’t turn me on a bit, but Donny really got into once we started. And boy was it nice to see him off that sofa and liking something.

Getting fired meant Donny wasn’t eligible for unemployment checks. (That little girl—that little liar—really put me and Donny in a spot. It was his job to clean the girls’ locker room, for heaven’s sake; how could he be expected to keep track of what days soccer practice was? And the second time, well, I think this chick planned it that way—almost like she had it in for my Donny.) So that meant I had to get a second job while Donny tweaked his résumé. And after a long night of waiting tables at IHOP, after a longer day of cashiering at Food Lion, the last thing I felt like doing was chewing Donny’s dinner for him while he jerked himself off, but I think that’s what they mean by in sickness and in health, to which I’d like to add: down in the dumps, because that sums Donny up after losing his job.

We did our best to forget the past and all those short straws we kept drawing. We ended up getting rid of the cable; it was either that or the car insurance; soon enough, though, we had to go ahead and stop paying that car insurance…and I’ll admit it right here that on a few occasions I snuck some pork chops and Devil Dogs (Donny’s favorite) out of Food Lion, but they didn’t miss ’em—I’m sure they expect that sort of thing from their employees now and again. We made it through the summer fine enough. And in September, Donny even started going out for long walks—“To clear my thoughts,” he’d say, then he’d vanish for hours. Sure, rent was past due and the car’s transmission was shot, but I sensed that things would turn around soon enough. Then October came and Donny required me to momma-bird all his meals. He didn’t even jerk off anymore. Just went ahead and ate what I spit into his mouth, then fell asleep on the sofa. I got worried—a wife knows when something’s amiss. So I ended up following him on one of those long walks. Turns out, they weren’t long at all. Just up the road to Jacob’s Middle School. No wonder Donny hadn’t dropped any weight! He’d just sit there on the curb across the street, watching. I stayed put behind the 7-Eleven, watching him watching the school…watching him staring hard, like maybe if he kept his eyes trained on that school long enough, principal Jones would invite him in and give him back his job. Then the last bell rang and the yard filled with children and Donny stood up and started walking back toward home, a gaggle of little girls and their swinging backpacks in front of him, and Donny keeping his distance because all the hubbub down at the Board of Ed, even though they were never able to prove diddly-squat. And when he managed to get home some hours later, I swear I’d never witnessed him wearing such a pathetic face. That night, he made me chew up an entire box of Devil Dogs for him. And as he cleaned himself up in the bathroom, I hated that little girl—that little liar—more than ever.

Donny always said the electrical in that school was faulty—how it was just a matter of time. Those parents should count their lucky stars that the fire got going just after midnight, when all their kids were tucked in and dreaming. I’m happy to report that Donny’s back to work—at Lumber Warehouse, this time—and things are looking up. He says that the new middle school is nearly done, that it’s even better than before.

It doesn’t matter what that jury came back with, how they want to see me put away. Any good wife wants to make her husband happy, and that’s all I’ve got to say.

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About Matt Hall

After earning his MFA from VA Tech in 2018, Matt Hall moved back to New Jersey, where he is at work on a novel. His fiction and poetry have been published in The McNeese Review and Pif Magazine.



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