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by Steve Passey

She said to me: “Since I turned fifty I have become invisible to men.”

It sounded like a complaint.

I said, “Well, for the first forty-nine how many men were invisible to you?”

It was a rhetorical question. She said something, but I didn’t catch it. The news was on, something about a man inventing a new kind of engine, a motor that would run on water. Marvelous.

She walked out.

I see these women, lines of them, here, there, everywhere with lean and sallow faces, their thin lips perpetually downturned at the corners of their mouths. You cannot ever do right by them and if someone ever did do right they’d think they deserved righter. If someone did do righter they’d think that they deserved more. Now their children are gone, so they’re not going to get anything for them. They’re going to have to find another way. There are only so many ways. There are only so many men. The good men have gone on. They have good women, round-faced and happy, their children close at hand. The men who are not so good are with hard faces twenty years younger.

That lean comes from thinking, the sallow from knowing, and the thin lips from settling. They come from fear of the less that is coming in place of more.

She came back in and said, “I’m going to give you a do-over. Maybe you should think more about what you say to me.”

I didn’t look at her. In my mind’s eye I can see her, hands on her hips, her small mouth getting smaller and smaller and disappearing into her indignation. I did ask her to stick with it for half an hour, the news cycle will repeat and she will see this new thing, this engine that will run on water. I imagine that we are getting very close to perpetual motion, and that soon many things we now pay dearly for will be free.

Steve Passey is originally from Southern Alberta. He is the author of the short-story collection Forty-Five Minutes of Unstoppable Rock (Tortoise Books, October 2017) and the poetry chapbook The Coachella Madrigals (Luminous Press, August 2017). His fiction and poetry have appeared in more than forty publications worldwide, both print and electronic.