“I’ve always liked Christmas,” she said, hanging the last string of lights on the dying sago palm tree, “It’s the only holiday that makes a girl feel like a woman.”
He had no idea what she meant.
Overhead the sky was that south Florida blood-orange, the color it always was just before the sun fell beneath the horizon.
He stood on the front lawn in his boxers and an open bathrobe. He was holding a glass of red wine and hadn’t shaved all week. The writing was going horribly. He should have been a dentist like his brother.
“My mother is coming tomorrow,” she said, “We have to pick her up at the airport at eleven. Do you want to come?”
He looked at her.
“You don’t have to,” she continued, “I know you don’t like to go to the airport. If you want to come, I’m leaving here at ten.”
“I’ll stay,” he replied. He took a big gulp of the wine. It was that cheap boxed stuff – leftover from a gold exchange party she’d hosted last week.
He lit a cigarette.
“Oh Charlie, do you have to?” She implored.
“Just one,” he replied, “We agreed on one. Just like JFK Jr.”
“Oh Charlie,” she began then stopped.
She walked down the cement walkway to the curb, then turned back to admire her handiwork with the sago palm.
“I think it looks just great,” she called, “It really spruces up the place. Don’t you just love the holidays?”
“We’ll have so much fun,” she said, coming back up the walk, “It will be so much fun.”
Charlie finished the rest of his wine. Across the street Bill Cadkin was just getting home. The Cadkin’s lived in the big Art Deco place built back in the fifties by some famed Cuban architect Emmanuel de something or other.
“Hi Charles,” Bill called, just as the Cadkin brood came pouring out the front door to shrieking Daddy! All six of them came pouring out.
Charlie nodded and raised his empty wine glass.
Bill Cadkin didn’t notice.
Later, Charlie paused to catch a glimpse of her in the shower. Her body was very tan behind the frosted glass. He thought about her body and the sight of that body out on the patio in the afternoon sun; in the two-piece white bathing suit, the soft curves of her back glistening with coconut tanning oil; the smell of that coconut oil drifting through the kitchen where he worked hammering away on the old typewriter he’d picked up at a rummage sale in New Orleans thirty years ago; glancing at that body from time to time like a pervy old man. She was only twenty-seven years his junior. Age gaps like that happened all the time these days.
Outside the air was warm and the sky had turned to that peachy color that came after the blood-orange had become diluted with the steel blue that preceded the black. Charlie stood on the front lawn. Somewhere there was a police siren. It wailed for a while then grew faint and eventually trailed off in the distance.
Charlie lit another cigarette. He was fifty-nine year old – sixty in three months. He figured he had another fifteen to go.
And fifteen to go before I sleep, he thought, Fifteen to go before I sleep.
––Ethan Denault is 28 years old, dirt poor, and just likes to write, travel and fish.
We are proud to showcase Ethan’s work in Volume 8 of Kansas City Voices. Order your copy today at: http://www.kansascityvoices.com/