The Manchester Review
Jim Quinn
Men in Love
Fiction
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A TROUT STINGS

              “My husband will kill you when he finds out,” she says, lighting a cigarette, laughing smoke through it. We’re naked in bed. Sparks sting out, hitting me here or lightly there. No burn, just glint-glint. This is the middle of the story, a love story if you believe in love. Smoke stink mixes with sour bed-smells rising through old sweat, his night-sweat, my day-sweat, her fur underarms, her pulled-at dirty hair, the weeks-old workshirt she slides into, wriggling as she goes. She walks to the bathroom, yells out at me through the door, “I am always hot, hot in this terrible weather of a terrible country.”

              Flush. She comes out, sliding off the shirt to drop along the way, switches the airconditioner to high. It grunts, sighs, exhales its chemical dogsbreath into her cool dim messy apartment. Hers and his. A rent-by-the-season one bedroom in a beachfront motel. She shakes her head at me, won’t come to bed. She sits at the kitchen table in the middle of the room, a big red rose printed on the old-time Formica top, pitted steel legs. Roundhead screws stick out at joints, as if what holds things together is part of the decorative effect, as if you have to see structure to trust your body to it. She trusts her body to it, heavily, heavy as she can. She crosses her arms on the table, tiny, round, firm arms, not fat. I keep telling her, not fat. I think she thinks “not fat” means I love her. I used to never love them. A faded beach towel (I’D LOVE A PUNCH! HAWAIIAN PUNCH!) covers the chair. She says she hates America because it sticks her butts to furnitures. But she hates America for everything. She’s from Moldova, Besserabia, Hungary. She doesn’t know where she’s from, she’s here and hates it. She puts out her cigarette on a pink ashtray shaped like a naked woman, paint half worn off the nipple dots. She puts her head on her arms and cries. All I said was, I like that she’s tan all over.


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