Where Water Fails
by Rusty Barnes
Richard guesses Maggie is at it again. He hears the steady yammer of a mallet in the kitchen as she pounds meat against the rattly metal countertop. Once sheâ€™d gotten so mad at him sheâ€™d thawed out two entire freezer bags of venison tenderloin and beef steaks, beat them all into submission for hours. The next day sheâ€™d invited the Burnhams over for dinner, and she had made conversation about the latest shows, the church bazaar, but watched his face, covertly, every time he took a bite. She knew heâ€™d noticed. When he asked her later why she was so fierce about it, sheâ€™d looked up at him sweetly and said, â€œBecause it feels like Iâ€™m hitting you. Every time is one time I donâ€™t have to argue with you.â€
This pounding of meat. What has he done this time? He thinks back over the last twelve hours: nothing out of the ordinary, nothing at all. Waking, work, home.
The front-porch refrigerator is open, and a twelve-pack of soda still ringed in plastic sits on the concrete floor. Maggie usually fills the fridge, but why would she leave it open? He de-rings the soda, puts it in, and closes the door. It becomes more mysterious, this whole thing. He notices the mudroom light is off and the livingroom curtains are closed against the fading sunlight. There is no whir of washing machine or dryer. Lunchbox by the door, boots next to the lunchbox, hat and overshirt hung up. Still no singsong hello. No kiss.
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"Where Water Fails" is roughly 1700 words.
Rusty Barnes lives in Revere, MA with his family. His stories have appeared in journals like Pindeldyboz, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Red Rock Review.