by Jason Jackson

Mid-afternoon, a cheap hotel room with Frank, and she’s praying for the sun’s heat to become a window-shattering weight. Frank’s a quiet man: nothing like her husband who sings karaoke-Elvis, who knows how to eat a mango, who kept his heart condition a secret until their honeymoon. Who never reads novels, is allergic to tomatoes. Who works his upper body hard until there are blue worm-veins under the skin of his biceps, which she traces with her tongue.

Frank asks her to kneel as he sits on the bed, his eyes closed, legs apart, toes clenched. The dirty blue carpet is faded in squares where furniture has been moved, and someone is watching tv in the next room: canned laughter and coughing. She’s thinking again about Che Guevara, how his body was hidden, then buried, then disinterred to be burnt, how his fingers were amputated for identification purposes. She learnt all of this from a documentary she saw when she was young, her parents shouting about melted ice-cream and the broken freezer, and she was crying because there was a photograph of a dead man on tv and no ice-cream coming. When she told her husband all of this—how she could never get away from the feeling that Che’s dead photograph-eyes were somehow still watching her—he said he didn’t know who Che Guevara was, and now she wants to tell Frank, but there’s only the blue of the carpet, his curled toes and the smell of him, like something left damp too long.

Her husband thinks she’s at Jenny’s, whose boyfriend left her for eating birthday cake at breakfast-time and drinking so much tea she got tannin stains on her teeth. The Jenny-excuse won’t last, but the Frank-thing won’t last either, and whatever happens there’ll be changes, there’ll be heavy, exhausting words. She hopes her husband will meet someone who likes mangoes and Elvis, and she likes to imagine them feeding each other slippery slices while singing Suspicious Minds.

Kneeling on the floor, she wonders again what will become of them all, whirling around on this world which seems to be spinning the wrong way, and as Frank shifts to the edge of the bed, saying, ‘You do this for him, too, right?’ she’s praying for the heat of the sun to weigh on the window, she’s listening to the silence, she’s waiting for a crack.

Jason Jackson’s prize-winning fiction appears regularly in print and online. In 2020 his work featured in Fractured Lit, Craft Literary and the anthology You Are Not Alone, Jason’s story Mess of Love took 3rd place in the recent Retreat West Short Story Competition and his work was nominated for Best Microfictions and a Pushcart Prize. Jason’s prose/photography piece The Unit is published by A3 Press. Follow Jason on Twitter @jj_fiction.