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“I wore a pair of glass shoes to the wedding and I bumped into a stone. My shoes said ‘clink’ and smashed to pieces. But by that time it was too late. I was already married.” She giggled and took a big swig on her Jack Daniel’s and Coke.

“We got so many wedding presents.” She shook her head and stared at the bar for a moment, then looked up. “You should’ve seen all my dishes and things after I’d organized them. We lived in the cutest little white duplex. Two railroad style places side by side. We were on the sunny side, the one with the yellow kitchen. The other side had a blue kitchen. I don’t really like yellow, but that kitchen was nice!

“The living room had a fireplace with white shelves on either side. My ex unpacked in the living room. And the first day, he pulled out all kinds of things I’d never seen before. Weird stuff he collected like antique toys and knickknacks and old jars and things. Now some of that stuff was okay. Kind of arty or romantic on those white shelves with a few of his videocassettes and film canisters sort of casually arranged on the mantle.” She took another sip and sloshed the ice around in her glass. A bittersweet grin lit her face for a moment, until suddenly she set the glass down on the bar with a dull thud.

“Every day he opened a new box and the stacks began to take over. No room for my books. ‘Paperbacks’ he said. But his books were paperbacks too. Sure I got mine out at B. Dalton’s at the mall, but that didn’t make them better than those skinny little poetry books he bought. Rimbaud, William Carlos Williams, Ginsberg, Bukowski.” She spit out the names like lemon pits that had gotten into the Hollandaise sauce and sipped her drink. “I don’t even believe he read them.”

“Every morning I got up and made muffins and coffee, before I drove off to my job in the city. Every night I came home and threw on an apron to make dinner. One night Lee said he wanted chicken for dinner; he said that his old girlfriend’s mother baked chicken breasts in lemon and butter.” She poked at the lime with the little red straw. “Lemon and butter.” She gave the lime another savage poke.

“I told him I could do that and sent him to the store. He had a list.” She held up her hand and ticked off the items on her fingers: “Chicken, butter, dishwasher detergent, orange juice, and lemon. Five things.” She kept her open hand up and wiggled her fingers for emphasis.

“But what does he bring home? What do you think that man brought home?” She raised the other hand in exasperation, then starting counting off again. “Chocolate chip cookie dough, orange juice, Wheat Thins, and avocado.” She stuck up her remaining thumb. “And yes, he did bring the chicken.

“‘What does it matter?’ he said. I said, ‘You wanted chicken in a lemon butter sauce but forgot the butter and the lemon.’”

She took a long drink and shook her head. “So I drove to the store this time, came home and baked the chicken. All I asked him to do was get down a white platter with grapes around the rim, one of our wedding presents. And he just ignored me. The television was going - I could hear it - so it wasn’t like he was creating one of his masterpieces. I finally went in there and he said to me, ‘The news is on.’ I said, ‘This will only take a minute.’ He said, ‘You’re a feminist. Can’t you do it yourself?’

“Now you tell me, what does the fact that he’s taller than me have to do with me being a feminist?” She stood up to show just how petite she was. “I mean we were newlyweds, isn’t that supposed to mean something? But no.

“‘You won’t even take my last name,’" he said. She shook her head and took another drink. “I’m making his dinner, and he’s telling me that because I’m a ‘feminist’ he’s not going to get a plate down off a high shelf.

“And then we just got into it, said all those things we shouldn’t’ve said. And we ended up arguing about housework. You know what he said? He said, ‘I don’t know how to scrub the bathtub.’ So I turned off the stove and led him into the bathroom and gave him step by step instructions, starting with ‘get down on your knees and sprinkle the tub with Comet.” And then over dinner, he told me that he had always wanted to move back to his hometown, some little place in Missouri, tucked into the Ozark Mountains. He wanted to be close to his mother.” She swirled the ice in her empty glass.

“Yes, dear, I do believe I could drink another one. Squeeze of lime you know.” With the fresh napkin and glass set before her, she looked up and raised her drink.


      — Karen Cantrell