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August 31, 2015 Fiction

Exact Routes

Caroline Belle Stewart

Exact Routes photo

Sometimes she fears her new husband is her old husband. In her mind the two take up the same space and linger in the same places. Similar fabrics cover roughly the same anatomy. They have whispered the same words.

At night the new one’s weight shifts the floorboards, the door creaks and toilet flushes and bed sways with his return. In the morning she finds him in the same pose in the reclining chair, the cat curled no differently on this newer lap.

Of course the current could not know the former’s exact routes through the halls.

He does not mean to mimic.

He thinks he offers something worthier, stands at the stove as though another husband has not done so many more times over many more years.

In spring and summer the new one follows the old one’s path through the myrtle to the hidden corner of the yard, marks the beech tree.

Sparrows dive at him, the skunk raises its tail.

He peers into the tank and the fish flares its gills.

He has made claims.

Heavier pots and pans fill the pantry, the cutlery is longer. The dresser is newer, sturdier. A painting hangs in place of a painting.

He has rolled a tool cart into the garage. But she has heard tools in use before.

His lip-shaped ashtray sits near the front door and holds his keys and wallet, nails and pennies. Pretty women streak across the TV.               

She was not raised to wake and need a presence.

She does not feel relieved by a man who waves away territorial bees.

This new one walks so eagerly and steps so heavily, as though to erase the old one’s steps. She has been told this is not noble.

How can he replace the old one without erasing her memory of the old one? And her memories of older ones. He cannot erase her memory without erasing her.

Morning comes. They wake. She pulls the shade to see the bird’s nest gone.

A squirrel crouches at something curdled in the driveway.

She speaks, he clears his throat.

While she speaks he looks beyond her, starts to speak. 

A bird of prey makes a call she has not heard before.

The suet feeder is empty. 


image: Tara Wray