Fiction

“Single” by Jaime Fountaine

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When she’s single, my mother goes out with the girls from work. “Men don’t grow on trees,” she says.

They grow in bars, in line at the bank where she works, at the gas station where she used to get her car inspected before she and Scott broke up. They grow older, wider, meaner, tired of her. They grow apart.

If she comes home still single, my mother is honest, tipsy. “I just miss the feeling of a man on top of me,” she’ll say. “It’s so hard to sleep alone.”

When I was little, I used to have these nightmares about her disappearing, getting into some car and never coming back. I never bothered telling her. She’d be upset about the wrong thing. I’d just go into the living room if it was late enough and turn the TV on real low, so it didn’t wake her.

I guess I spooked a boyfriend enough, asleep on the couch in my nightshirt, that a little TV showed up in my room one day.

“Wasn’t that nice of him?” she beamed.

She’s the kind of person who adapts to a broken thing instead of figuring out how to fix it.

When she’s single, my mother will climb into bed with me when she thinks I’m asleep. I can tell she’s disappointed that I’ve started to face the wall, because it means she has to be the big spoon, the protector instead of the protected.

I wait, until I can slide down the length of my twin bed and sneak out into the living room to sleep on the couch, facing the door, until the infomercials turn to news.

 

Jaime Fountaine 1Jaime Fountaine was raised by “wolves.” Her novella, Manhunt, is forthcoming from Mason Jar Press. She lives in Philadelphia, where she co-hosts the Tire Fire reading series with Mike Ingram.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Photo by Matthew Klein

Poetry

“Goodnight, Whoever You Are” by Michael Robins

Must be a gift to shrug what others shoulder,
what’s blown from the rooftop & nonetheless
asleep, not I swear another flooded forfeit,

catalogue of a poor magician staged & reciting
daily harm, run-of-the-mill regret. Evenings
I read a thing or two on Mozart, cause of death

unknown or working yet as a janitor in Nebraska
where he paces under rain. If I turn yesterday
I’m a ghost, nothing myself. Maybe a ninny,

blue & motley, rolling the tired semicircle
sidewise in a plastic August breeze, one sheet
& on my way to the wind. When the drunks quit,

quake & sweat or when they bat each other
my good eye wins, tracks twice to the window
against which a future checks its teeth, meets

&, behind the beveled glass, imagines marriage,
pledge & fruit of every American billboard,
then finally knocks. I’d nothing brainy to say

(oh Nebraska, I mean Amherst), stood anyway
as if the fields knew my name. Faceless hills,
lamps of summer in galaxy gray, we touch & go

toward war like a thousand birds, apparent death
before the engines howl & lift a chimney brick
or recover from the splash with a fish. It falls

now to the neighbors & only later did we leave
ill-manner in water, walk without remembering
each relic of a rusted trampoline, bed spring

& washing machine, the conversation held years
where we planted feet like we’d stay, pleased
our umbrella didn’t cartwheel past the reel

overgrown in firefly & thicket both. We crested
like a wrongheaded tune, flickered & nodding
& knowing that touch & go meant Massachusetts,

home, a surfeit of skunks for who can really say
how many afternoons will gnaw our corners,
our resolve along the bumper-to-bumper cars

stalled & sunk. Twice today that low memory
moved the horizon, swept me near the exit
like tinder inhales, like kisses flare & not anyone

thinks anything but fire. I rouse to the credits
casual & free, merge with the midday shine
raising a finger to the temple, my ready thumb

tempted among the shadows gone, & their trees.

 

Michael Robins is the author of four collections of poetry, including In Memory of Brilliance & Value (2015) and People You May Know (2020), both from Saturnalia Books. He lives in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago.

 


Photo: “When I Walk Away I Notice” by Courtney Bernardo