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The Off-Season
by Jami Attenberg

She was in the bathroom washing her face with an anti-bacterial soap when she heard the announcement in Spanish on the loudspeaker. The loudspeaker was attached to the top of a truck driving on the dirt road behind their guest house. The announcement was on repeat. She dried off her face and then her hands on a towel, then walked back through the bedroom and tipped open the door to the living room.

"What did they say?" she asked him.

He looked up from his magazine and rolled it in his hand, like he might strike something with it.

"They said they're spraying for mosquitoes in an hour."

It was the first time he had talked to her since that morning, when they had the fight about the coffee maker. She wouldn't have talked to him at all but he spoke Spanish and she didn't. That's all he had been speaking all day to everyone around them but her. Sometimes he just spoke it to himself when he thought she wasn't listening. He hissed when he did that.

"We have to close all the windows and bring everything inside."

The announcement played again and they both froze and listened. The only word she understood was "amigos."

"Or we'll get a respiratory ailment," he added.

"That's good news," she said. "I've been swallowing bugs since the day I got here."

He said nothing, just slapped the magazine against his palm. It was a New Yorker, one of ten back issues he had brought with him on the trip.

They spent the next fifteen minutes closing all the windows in the guest house.

"Do you think we should leave?" she said. "I think we should leave."

"We're going to be fine," he said. "And where would we go anyway?"

She stared at him. We are not going to be fine, she thought.

They had come during the off-season, and hadn't known it till they got there. The whole island was dead. Most of the restaurants weren't even open. They had been living on ham and cheese sandwiches for five days. She had picked the place, and he had picked the date, and no one had thought to check if it was a good time to visit, and now there they were, stuck in a dark room together, waiting for the men to start spraying.

"I'm leaving," she said.

"Leave," he said.

She went into the bedroom and cracked open the window a bit. And then she left.

She drove to the ferry in their rented jeep and parked there. Wild dogs raced in circles on the streets. It was the first time she had been alone in five days. She kept the motor on and blasted the air conditioning. She listened to the local classic rock station. She scratched her bug bites.

When she returned home two hours later, he had started on another New Yorker.

"I held down the fort," he said, and those were the last words he said to her for the rest of the day.

Later on as he hacked and vomited through the night, she stood over him in the bathroom. "Hablas espanol?" she said, and kicked him once with her foot.

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



Jami Attenberg is the author of Instant Love (Crown/Shaye Areheart Books, 2006) and The Kept Man, which will be published by Riverhead Books in January 2008. Her work has appeared in Jane, Print, Nerve, the San Francisco Chronicle and others. Visit her at jamiattenberg.com.

Read the interview.
Issue Nineteen (December 15, 2007): The Off-Season by Jami Attenberg «» A Company Function by Grant Bailie «» Food Spectrum of the Rainbow Family by Melissa Bell «» Holiday Inn by Kim Chinquee «» Killer Pair by Trinie Dalton «» What Happened to My Purple Flip-Flops by Arwen Dewey «» Truth (ii) by Ben Ehrenreich «» How 9) Strange by Laird Hunt «» The Mess You Made in Us by C. Robin Madigan «» Red Brick by Darlin' Neal «» A Boy Not Born Yet by Tori Malcangio «» Taco Foot by Jack Pendarvis «» Boyandaquarter by Ben Stein «» Teec Nos Pos (Circle of Cottonwoods) by Beth Thomas «» Music from 1975 by Benjamin Weissman «» Interviews: Jami Attenberg «» Grant Bailie «» Melissa Bell «» Kim Chinquee «» Trinie Dalton «» Arwen Dewey «» Ben Ehrenreich «» Laird Hunt «» C. Robin Madigan «» Tori Malacangio «» Darlin' Neal «» Jack Pendarvis «» Jim Ruland «» Ben Stein «» Beth Thomas «» Benjamin Weissman «» Cover Art "Desire" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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