by Francine Witte
Lit in caution. The husband is in the driver’s seat and he is suddenly afraid. He is watching the girl cross the street. The girl is looking straight at him. This is the girl he had told to stop calling. He had said I am married. He had said you’re only 19. He had told her this on one of their backseat nights. But when he looked again at her flowey hair, he knew that if she wanted to, she could kill him with that hair, with the rest of her beauty. He had to forget that now. A marriage is forever, and besides, there is the baby growing inside of his wife. He turns his head to see his wife folding up the newspaper, Hurricane! Mandatory Evacuation! on the front page. She is leaning forward to put the paper into the glove box. He turns back to look at the girl who is walking the tiny dog. The girl had shown him pictures of the dog one night and said how she loved taking care of tiny beings and wouldn’t it be great if she could have his baby? She didn’t want to hear it when he said no, and how did she know he’d be here at this traffic light? Why wasn’t she trying to evacuate like everyone else? Why was she hanging on to his life like a lullaby?
Lit in stop, the wife is in the passenger seat. Agrees to give the marriage one more try. Marriage is forever, she tells herself in her head. A pretty girl, maybe 19, is crossing the street in front of their car. She is walking a dog, but seems to be looking at her husband. The girl has flowey hair and the wife wonders if she is the girl her husband cheated with. She had seen the text messages on his phone, and now, every young girl they see makes her think is she the one? Is she the one? She looks away and rolls up the newspaper, Hurricane! Mandatory Evacuation! on the front page. She stuffs the paper in the glove box. She will read it later. Later when they reach safety and she starts her life as a ghost. When she tells her husband about the miscarriage. When the trees begin to twist, and the hurricane is humming like a broken lullaby.
Lit in go. The young girl all fluttered. Her mind all twirly from the sonogram. The baby in me, the baby in me. Gloves are off now, she thinks. Besides, no marriage is forever. She thinks of the screen, first lines of her baby swirling like a hurricane on a radar map, or like a ghost assembling itself. Her father, an old parrumph of a man, had tossed aside the newspaper, Hurricane! Mandatory Evacuation! He wants his family to stay put. He was boarding up the windows, as she leashed up Rex, her tiny dog and headed for Main Street, hoping she could get to her lover before he leaves town. Before he fades out of her life like a lullaby.
Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections, Café Crazy and The Theory of Flesh from Kelsay Books. Her flash fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologized in the most recent New Micro (W.W. Norton) Her novella-in-flash, The Way of the Wind has just been published by Ad Hoc Fiction, and her full-length collection of flash fiction, Dressed All Wrong for This was recently published by Blue Light Press. She lives in New York City.