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by Fiona J. Mackintosh

That week.

As I turn the calendar from May to June, I’m staggered by a rising tide of memories from back before the flood. Lifting the shiny page and piercing it through the nail, that week’s here again, the sudden heat after days of chilly rain, your wife and kids at the beach while you stayed home to decorate the house. Showing up on my doorstep at midnight, naked beneath your paint-stained jeans, rumpled, ripe, and hard. All-night sprawls in the trodden sheets, your fingers in my grooves and empty spaces, your teeth on the back of my neck, the swoon of it, making me come from behind. Afterwards, eating beans from the can, passing it from hand to hand. Your wince when an orange bean dropped on the sheet, your grin as I slid low and licked it up with a lizard tongue still tasting of you. And waking to the clash and grind of the garbage truck through the wide-flung windows and you, sleepy-eyed and keys in hand, already halfway gone.

It’s twelve years on, a good man and three kids later, and a breast sewn shut like a tight-lipped smile. This year’s June is scored with crosses marking time. On the kitchen counter, shiny with the bleach wipes we’ve been told to use, a basket brims with prescription bottles with childproof caps. The cat’s a pretzel curl on the sagging basket chair in the sun, dreaming of nothing but now. Through the long windows, I watch my children playing softball in the yard, the grass long worn to dust, the baby — no, he’s four years old — looking upward as he runs, on his face the endless hope that this time he’ll catch the ball and hold it tight enough to last.

Fiona J. Mackintosh is a British-American writer living near Washington D.C. She won the 2018 Fish Flash Fiction Prize and the 2018 UK National Flash Fiction Day Micro Competition, and her flashes have twice been nominated for the Best Small Fictions. Her short stories have been listed for the Bristol, Galley Beggar, and Exeter Short Story Prizes, and she was honored to receive a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist’s Award in 2016.