What Sweet Music They Make

That day I enthusiastically wasted on paper lanterns and the sharp wooden stares of sugar and flesh. She was pale with deceit, a product of meddling and worm-eaten explanations and grandstanding. “It meant nothing to me,” she said, and I sneezed the exhaust that was her from my lungs. She had perfumed hair. They all did, those who honored and obeyed, and those who couldn’t be bothered. The phone rang. She reached for it — clumsy — and it landed at my feet. “Telemarketer,” she claimed, and I felt my hand grow tighter around the handle. I was always wildly excited by the little things: the weight of tools in my hand, the gentle run of the wind against frozen eyelids in the moonlight, the crimson against dry lips and gritted teeth, and then the stiff drink after, tainted by lipstick at the rim. She was all sorry and so forth, keeping a casual distance, and then she bared her breasts at me, giggled, told me to take one for the wedding album before she threw her engagement ring into the heap of soiled clothes I’d left to soak in the sink with last night’s dirty dishes.


Valentine’s day. A Spring Slaughter.


I thrust some Kleenex into my pocket, grabbed a Coca Cola, and headed for the door. I’d called her my little spring lamb, and she called me “corny” just as my hand was reaching for the doorknob. I unlatched the deadbolt and pulled. The cold gusted in, and I cold hear it: a whispering, a crawling skittle of cockroach legs and eyes wide open, crying in the dark. They were always whispering, sometimes in cadence with the dripping rain, plink, plink, plinking off the tin roof some ways away in the distance, sometimes like a white kiss carried upon a thistle flower, swaying with ice and snow, but they were always whispering — demanding — almost in silence, to hear the voice of God over the melancholy braying of the other lambs.

By Cheryl Anne Gardner

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