Often, I will write two or three stories that I later realize work pretty well together. This bit of flash fiction is now, as far as I’m concerned, a prequel to “The Man We Saw on Bourbon Street” and, perhaps, even a sequel to “Tracks” and “Terminal”. It could even be part of a sequence with other stories. Having said all that, I really don’t care for this story very much and I’m not even sure why I’m publishing it here.
By Lee Wright
I crush the cigarette on the sidewalk and slowly exhale a thin cloud of smoke. Wind comes hard off the river but does little to diminish the oppressive heat. I take a deep breath and inhale the putrid, vegetable rot stench of the Crescent City. Tomorrow, working on the docks, that stench will permeate my clothing. By the time I get home, I will stink so badly that she won’t even talk to me until I’ve showered. The apartment, though, will smell as it always does—of scented candles, clean laundry, and musty carpet. She will, of course, smell like garlic, marinara sauce, sweat, and wine. As usual, she will be tired, her feet will ache, and she won’t feel much like painting. She never feels like painting anymore. She never feels like doing anything anymore. But then, neither do I.
Looking up, I see the light in our bedroom go off and I sigh.
Just two flights to the shower, the fan, and the bed, I tell myself. That’s all. Not so bad really when you consider how little we pay for it. Still…
I stare at the jagged cracks in the sidewalk, wishing I hadn’t promised to stop drinking. Sweat has matted my prematurely-thinning hair, the heat burns and itches beneath my clothing, my shoulders ache, and the strained muscles in my lower back are beginning to stiffen.
I sit on the stoop and look toward the river that I can smell but can’t quite see. I light another cigarette and, for the tenth time this week, think about the home we left behind and the stairs I continue to climb for her.
© 2012 Lee Wright