a past-published flash-fiction
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A Separate Sky

By Kathleen Kersch Simandl     (C) 2008     (Note: Rough language warning)


I lay on my back and squinted at the sky.  The morning mist clung to the edge of the gully and threatened to spill over the wet bench where I was laid out.  I ignored its cold insistence.  I was trying very hard to imagine a tomorrow within the safe, blue sphere of marriage.  I wanted to fly, but kept crashing into the limits of that sky.  Ron, on drugs, had closed our sphere like a fist.  His fog blotted out our future.



Memory:  Ron and I are at Fleet Farm, wandering through the aisles in our jeans, flannel shirts, and nylon ski parkas.  It's their annual 'Get Ready to Spring Sale', and I've convinced him to look for a new window to replace the broken one in the hall.  It's chilly that late afternoon, even inside the store, and I wrap my jacket around my chest.


"Hey, Ron.  How about this one?"  I inquire, pointing with my free hand at a small aluminum window with glass louvers.  He glances at the window, and then stares at me.  Hard.


"What?  What's wrong?"  I ask, confused.


Ron continues to stare at me, eyes unblinking under the cold florescent light, but doesn't answer.


"What?"  I repeat, wondering what he had swallowed that morning. 


He grabs my shoulders.  "You cunt," he hisses as I squirm to get free of his grip.  "That's probably the most expensive window in the place."


"It looks just like the other ones in the trailer!"  I say in my defense.  But Ron isn't even listening.  He's gone stiff.  His eyes are red where they should be white, and the pupils are bouncing around like the balls in a pinball machine.  I'm terrified.


"You FUCKING PRINCESS!  Isn't anything we have good enough for you?!" he shouts.  I'm looking around to make sure no one else is close enough to hear him, to see my shame and embarrassment…to know my fear.  I grab my jacket tighter around me.


"LOOK AT ME!" he continues, jerking my face toward his.  "GODDAMN IT, WOMAN…  WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?"


I don't answer.  I have learned that it's safer not to.


After he stares at me for what seems like forever, Ron finally says, through clenched teeth, "Fuck it.  Fuck you.  I don't need this."  And he turns and walks into the next aisle.


I slowly loosen the grip I have on my parka, my heart pounding.  The commercial gaiety of the store seems incongruous, now.  But, I've been through this before.  He just needs a little time to come down, and everything will be okay again.  Everything will be fine.


I walk toward the aisle I think he's in, but don't see Ron.  I turn into the next, and the next.  I don't catch a glimpse of his jacket, his army-green hunting cap, so I figure maybe he's found something and is checking out already.  I hurry to the registers, looking through the line at each one, but don't see Ron. 


Doubt strafes my self-imposed calm, but I still think it's only necessary to look through the store more carefully.  I walk to the middle aisle and start at the end of the store where I'd chosen the "wrong" window - looking first to my right, down that aisle, then to my left.  To the right, to the left.  Bisecting the store, I too-soon find myself at the opposite side of the huge retail warehouse.  I scan to the end of the last aisle on my right, but see nothing except a uniformed employee stocking shelves; I stare down past a group of kids hovering over the electronics.  They're in the very last aisle on the left.


I feel a little dizzy, and I'm worried.  Where is he?   I start back – repeating my scan in reverse.  Left, right, left, right.  My neck is starting to hurt.   I feel ridiculous as the same shoppers see me pass again, every clerk repeating, "Can I help you, ma'm?"  I do the same search a third time, in a full panic, and then finally think to check the parking lot.


Our car is gone.





Ron had left me at the Fleet Farm.  He hadn't warned or threatened.  He'd just taken the car, and left me in the store.  No keys, no car, not even enough money for a taxi!  I desperately wanted to act cool and unconcerned, but the tears welled up in my eyes, and I cried.  Right there in front of Fleet Farm, amongst all the happy shoppers, I broke down and sobbed, wiping at my nose and eyes with my nylon sleeve.


It was night by then, dark except for the fluorescent light bleeding out of the store and the pools of orange mercury vapor-light reflecting off the cars in the parking lot.  The air was a heavy sweater dragged through winter waves.  And, I had been abandoned!


Sniffing, I checked my purse and found enough coins for the pay phone outside the entrance.  First I called our number.  The phone rang and rang.  I called again and listened to our phone ring sixteen times, as I shifted from foot to foot and watched my breath fog up the plastic panel to my side.  How could he DO this?  One of the shoppers, watching me, asked if she could give me a lift or something.  I could see the pity in her eyes.  But, I thanked her, no, and phoned Diane's number.  When she answered, I clung onto my best friend's voice like a life preserver, and told the whole story.


"Don't worry, Sweetheart.  I'll be right over… and you can spend the night."



The next morning found me lying, as if in my sepulcher, on Diane's picnic bench – trying to see my future, up above.  I decided I could not return to Ron's sphere.  Our future had contracted to a choking lump in my throat.  I was sick, half-dead, but I ached for the clear blue of a separate sky.  Where I could fly on my own.




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