SmokeLong Quarterly
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by Katrina Denza

A Character in Short Fiction
The absence of bats disturbs him. He sees only a moon-smudged sky, unmolested by their darting shapes. Damp grass cools the soles of his feet. A breeze rustles the bottom of his pajamas, tickling his ankles. Gardenias and dog shit perfume the air. For a moment, the reason for standing in his backyard eludes him, until he’s reminded by the garbage bag he clutches.

From under the branches of a sentinel spruce, crawls a woman. Her size is twice that of the man and she is naked. Her stomach drags along the ground as she moves forward on her hands and knees. Dark hair hangs in two braids to the grass. The crawling woman stops inches before the man’s feet. She sits back on her legs and looks up. Her skin folds in on itself, and he feels an urge to lay his head on its valleys and hills.

“It’s about time,” she says, her face wrought with concern.

The man drops the bag of garbage by his side. “Pardon?”

“I’ve been trying to get your attention for awhile.” The woman crosses her expansive arms over her chest.

His legs, suddenly enervated, buckle and he sinks to the ground.

“You think you’re tired? I’m here because I can’t do it anymore. I can’t keep eating the poison you shove down your throat. It’s killing me.”

The man lies on his side; his face melts into the grass. The smell of garbage pulls at his nose. “What poison?”

“Your life.”

He rises up on an elbow and taps the large woman’s knee with his fingers.

“Oh, I’m real.” She takes a hold of his hand. “You have to take it from here. I’m finished. Anymore and I’ll burst.”

The man pushes himself to his feet. The yard and the woman are concealed as a cloud drifts over the moon. He gropes the ground for the bag he dropped. Picking it up, he heads toward the screen door. The moon’s light returns and he looks back at the spruce before heading inside, but the woman is gone and it is only a tree.

Inside, a rectangle of moonlight illumines his wife spread across their bed, her face half shielded by a pillow. The bitter scent of gin hangs in the room. The man sets the bag on the sheet next to her. He turns on a light. She stirs, her eyes flickering, working to adjust.

“It’s time for me to go,” he says.

He strips off his pajamas, and naked, he walks out the door, into the night.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.

Katrina Denza lives in North Carolina with her husband and two sons. Her short fiction has been published in Ink Pot, Lynx Eye, and New Delta Review, among others.

Read the interview.
Issue Five (August 15, 2004): Lovers by Karen Simpson Nikakis «» Shore by Susan Henderson «» Lovechild by Ellen Parker «» Lipstick by Claudia Smith «» Back Home by Bob Arter «» Gloves by Gary Cadwallader «» Gilda by Patricia Parkinson «» Attic by Kim Chinquee «» The Radioactive Chicken or the Egg? by Randall Brown «» Summer Swim by Pia Z. Ehrhardt «» Two Benches by Pasha Malla «» Fall by Richard Hulse «» Drop by Roy Kesey «» Galveston by Steven Gullion «» Every Pane of Weathered Glass by Ellen M. Rhudy «» I Can't Talk About Butter Because Margarine Is All I Know by C.R. Park «» Something of Value by Brian Reynolds «» The Therapist Told Her Not to Stop Smoking–Right Now by Astrid Schott «» Maintenance by Miriam N. Kotzin «» Enough by Katrina Denza «» Interviews: Karen Simpson Nikakis «» Susan Henderson «» Ellen Parker «» Claudia Smith «» Bob Arter «» Gary Cadwallader «» Patricia Parkinson «» Kim Chinquee «» Randall Brown «» Pia Z. Ehrhardt «» Pasha Malla «» Richard Hulse «» Roy Kesey «» Steven Gullion «» Ellen M. Rhudy «» C.R. Park «» Brian Reynolds «» Astrid Schott «» Miriam N. Kotzin «» Katrina Denza «» Cover Art "A Character in Short Fiction" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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