r.kv.r.y. quarterly winter 2008 shorts on substances
by Elizabeth Crocket
When she walked into their little bungalow her eyes
went to the empty bottle of whiskey on the table.
She gingerly pulled her shoes off of her swollen feet
and put them neatly on the mat facing the door.
She wondered if this would be the night she left him.
She went into the tiny bedroom and stood
expressionless watching him sleep. He snored loudly,
and stopped breathing for a second or two. She
thought of how much easier it would be if she didn't
have to pack. She covered him with the old patched
quilt her grandmother had made.
"That you, Mary-Beth?" he muttered. She looked at
the drool, dried like yellow snowflakes down the left
side of his chin. "Yes, it's just me."
"Makin' dinner for us?"
"Of course" she lied, knowing his heavy eyes would
close again soon. She picked up his flannel shirt and
hung it in the closet. On cue, she heard the snoring
start again as she walked to the kitchen.
She had been wakened by a dream last night in
which she had no arms and legs. She had just laid
there unable to get up. She woke up trembling and
had quickly felt for her legs.
Mary-Beth shook her head and started to unwrap
some processed cheese from the plastic wrap. She
pushed the toaster handle down and put some sour
cream and onion potato chips on an old ironstone
After she ate, she would go down to the cellar and
get the black nylon suitcase her mother had given
her the Christmas before she died. Just in case she
needed it. Mary-Beth looked at her watch and
hurried to the living room. Wheel of Fortune was
about to start. Mary-Beth smiled when she saw how
Vanna White's dress glittered as she turned the
The images from the old t.v. danced in the otherwise
dark room as Mary-Beth went to make herself a cup
of tea. While she waited for the kettle to boil she
washed and dried her plate. She heard Jimmy in the
bathroom moaning softly. He was bent over the
toilet, his body heaving uncontrollably. Mary-Beth
got a wet washcloth and handed it to him when he
finally stood up.
"You working tomorrow, Mare?" he asked as he ran
the lukewarm cloth across the black stubble on his
"Who else would take care of Mrs. McGee if I didn't?"
She took the washcloth from him and threw it in the
She thought of how she would trim the old ladies
toenails for her tomorrow, and then paint them a
nice bright colour like marmalade orange. She
couldn't believe she had worked for her for almost
"What would I ever do without you, Mary?" Jimmy
asked as she straightened the cotton sheets and
plumped the feather pillows before he got back into
the old brown metal bed.
Mary-Beth felt tears stinging her blue eyes as she
pulled the rusty chain on the lamp by his bedside.
They both knew that just like old Mrs. McGee, he'd
never have to find out.
art by tamar factor