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by Dan Nielsen

Corrine was naked. The room was cold. Simon was no longer her boyfriend. That was over. This time for sure.

Simon, heavyset, hoisted himself up, and plodded to the window, where he stood staring at sparrows in a leafless tree.

Corrine kicked away the sheet, swung her legs over the edge of the bed, and climbed down to the rag rug and hardwood floor below. She put on a robe.

Simon cleared his throat, but the words wouldn’t come. He was sorry he got drunk. He was sorry he hit her. He had no reason to be jealous. It was only because he loved her so much.

Locked safely in the bathroom, Corrine attached a cord from her iPhone to the radio on the toilet tank lid. She pressed AUX. She sat. She opened Spotify. The music she chose was “Dancer on a Tightrope” by Sofia Gubaidulina. She played it loud. It felt appropriate. She leaned forward and raised the window shade. This was a signal for Paul, her new friend from across the courtyard. Paul liked to watch. Corrine saw him silhouetted in his window. He had binoculars. Corrine spread her legs, waved, and blew a kiss. When Simon left, Paul would come over.

Simon was back in bed. Corrine made her way to the kitchen. Simon needed his coffee. The microwave was broken, and instant was all she had. She’d never used the stove. She wasn’t sure how it worked. She half-filled a saucepan with tap water. She examined a burner knob and turned it to LITE. It clicked and clicked and clicked, but no flame. She tried the others. The results were the same. Her last chance was the hot tap. She ran it, testing it with a finger.

***

“Simon, honey, I made this for you. I hope it’s okay.”

Simon took a sip and made a face. “It’s fine.”

“It’s okay? Are you sure?”

Simon took another sip and made another face. He handed the cup back to Corrine.

“You hate it! Nothing I do is ever good enough! I think you should leave and never come back!”

Corrine stomped into the bathroom, slammed the door, poured the coffee down the toilet, and flushed. Simon had a job. He’d need to leave. Corrine listened to the bowl refilling and, when it stopped, she listened some more. She heard nothing.

“Simon?”

“I’m in here, dear.”

Simon heard the clicking, but had no idea what it meant. There were cans of Pabst in the refrigerator. He opened one. It tasted skunky and smelled like gas. He finished it anyway. And another. And another. And another. He felt dizzy. He slumped unconscious to the floor.

Corrine felt nauseous. Something smelled bad. She lit a match.

Paul saw the explosion a split second before his window shattered, shards blinding him and severing the large vein in his neck. The force of the blast blew out his eardrums. Blind and deaf, he bled to death.


Dan Nielsen drinks bourbon and plays ping pong. Old credits include Random House and University of Iowa Press anthologies. Recent work in: Jellyfish Review, Bird’s Thumb, Minor Literature[s], Storm Cellar, Cheap Pop, and Pidgeonholes. Dan has a website, Preponderous, and you can follow him on Twitter @DanNielsenFIVES.

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