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the flying fish

I’ve never been strictly a stargazer. I jump on trains like the hobo I am, like the bum I want to become. I’ve done the deed without the glove. I pride myself on my steel core and my map collection and my self-delusion. My mother was considerate: I have enviable teeth and uncountable strands of hair. In other words, men would have sex with me, possibly on a regular basis, possibly a lot.

Call me the earth and him the sky. I’m not being romantic, these are our gender-prescribed roles. My fertile body, his mercurial mind. His drops in my soil, etc.

My outfit that day was denim and suede and a spandex-polyester blend. It was look of the season, that’s what they said. If the men didn’t holler, I sagged like a scarecrow, my hay pulled out from inside.

I was standing on line to catch a glimpse, scrutinizing my star map, I walked on his heels. He said, “You?” I said, “Look.” He said, “Tell me,” I said, “The Flying Fish has few attractions for the amateur. Just two double stars and a barely discernable galaxy.”

Then it was likelikeSEXSEXLOVESEXlove. And love shot out and got all over the floor.

And his skies were pulsing, and my oceans were rising, and the horizon was rubbed raw.

Then he made rain.

Okay, but it was trouble. Wet dust on sills and dead light. For years I hid in the bath. I like my water hot and everywhere. For decades I chewed on soap.

The sun! The sun! I cannot describe it better but you must know. I remembered bodies. Like a lizard I crawled to the lawn. There was no sign of him, so I yanked at the grass instead. “My children,” I said, blade-fisted. He was lost among the beach towels, the Labradors, the beer coolers, the missile-shaped girls.      

Every few months, Mercury goes backwards. Every seven seconds, I consider screaming his name. The feeling passes like a baked potato, the game kids used to play. These days, I say, “No, thanks.” With my pencils sharpened and my mind woodsy I keep him out of sight.

And the sun is not unlike a nice bath. I can live on very little.

If he is the stars, he is a clock, a compass, a stick-figure collection. If he is the sky, he is manic-depressive in the most predictable way. If he looked down, he would see that I am fine. My cycles are alarmingly regular. At twilight, I weed-whack the lawn.

amanda shapiro lives in Durham, North Carolina. She holds an MFA from Columbia University. Her fiction has been published in Porchlight, Two Serious Ladies, Ben Marcus’ Smallwork, and CutBank.

photo credit: Sandra Neumann