This short is included in Elizabeth Ellen's new collection, Saul Stories, available in hardcover right now!
Saul says, It’s so boring down there.
He says, what are you reading?
He comes closer, stands beside me at the kitchen counter. The others are in the basement: Halloween or Nightmare On Elm Street or Saw.
I am reading a fashion magazine: the same brunette model in various cocktail dresses and poses. Saul turns the page and on the left hand side the woman is sitting half in and half out of a car, legs a centralized configuration on the page. There are chickens on the roof of the car and the chickens are the most interesting part of the photograph. On the right hand side the same woman is crawling out of a hole in a bedroom wall, hands and then knees, envelope in mouth. On the wall above the woman’s head are the words, “An Oasis Of Horror in A Desert Of Boredom.” The woman’s dress is black and her lips are red and I realize I haven’t worn either – a cocktail dress or red lipstick - in months.
Put one on, Saul says, and I’ll take your picture.
Okay, I say. But I’m not crawling on my hands and knees.
You have to, Saul says. We have to recreate the photographs exactly. We have to match every detail.
Even the chickens, I say.
Where the hell are we going to find chickens, Saul says.
I have trouble sleeping in open spaces, I tell Saul. There is a blanket on the floor of my closet.
This one, Saul says, removing the most formal of my black dresses from its hanger.
I use the palm of my hand to push Saul out of the way. I imagine him sitting on my bed, rearranging small tabletop gifts, unfolding paper cranes.
I step out of my clothes, let the dress fall over my shoulders.
I get down on my hands and knees, practice crawling into the mirror.
It’s two minutes or ten or thirty. I lose track of time. I write Dear John on a piece of paper, fold the paper between my lips, conscious of my whole wet mouth. I look around, expecting to find chickens.