by Meg Tuite

In service to gesticulating men she dissociates from the crush of her husband’s crumbs, one blue blade of sky. Cold blots stem her extremities that scuttle the corridors of routine. She tests the stupor of her smile, fifteen years of placating the low tide of rooms, the clutch of barbed newspapers, the stench of regulars anticipating a lover, each with the silent shriek of special. “Good morning, Keith. A double espresso and blueberry scone,” flutter through his ache.

Bodies tremor when her vast stretch of ‘I parade you’ wraps around an ego like an overwrought bouquet. “Scott, looking fine this morning. Two shots vanilla, iced latte, breakfast burrito.” Scott suspends within her pillow of feathers, forgets he is married and hates his job. He is all manner of things with her. No one dismisses him here.

Every day orbit of humans reek the same moist weight of disclosure. She is the vacancy they fill with their secrets. “Skim milk for Bob,” “Chai for Larry,” “Cappuccino for Bret with egg/ham sandwich.” Three homeless customers sleep, read all day. She feeds. Coffee unlimited.

No one wonders about her cracks. The doors lock. The sky a flat sheet over her head. She is narcotized by night combed in the same direction. Go home. Husband is out. Power process of her thoughts begin. Keys on the counter. Is this the only way to raise your flag? Post-it notes are scripted with messages for the EMTs, friends, family. Nothing intoxicates a frenzy. She is thoughtful and methodical.

Helium. Plastic bag with elastic. Pipe from gas container into bag. Breathe out. One hour at the most. Deep breaths.

Meg Tuite is author of four story collections and five chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Poetry award for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging. She teaches writing retreats and online classes hosted by Bending Genres. She is also the fiction editor of Bending Genres and associate editor at Narrative Magazine

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