12/20/11

Yellow Dress
By Andrew F. Sullivan


The man left without paying. He left the swirling rainbow in his cup and a note for the waitress at the diner. The coffee tasted like industrial soap. The sky was closing up as he climbed into his car. The radio flicked out lottery numbers to litter the airwaves between crests of static.

The man rolled down his windshield to spit out the window. The spittle splattered back onto his face in the wind. The man did not wipe it off his cheek. He kept driving.

His eyes were on the ditches.

He found his brother’s car outside a Motel Six near Norwood. His tire iron popped the trunk. The man found a scrap of yellow cotton stuck to the latch. The clerk at the desk took the two bills the man offered without any questions and handed him a room key. Room 23B.

The man found his brother sitting on the end of one twin bed with a cigarette in his hand. The smoke alarm was unplugged and dangled above his head. On the television, they were spinning balls around in a basket. His brother’s eyes followed them in circles.

“You know how you flip the pillow over to enjoy the cool side after the first side gets to hot? I’m the same way about beds. Sometimes the first one gets too hot. So I got a spare.”

The man sat down beside his brother. The brother continued.

“You know it wasn’t even that much money.”

The man did not reply. The brother turned up the volume.

“She shouldn’t have gone around telling everyone. That was the problem. I mean, that’s just asking for it, you know? Alice shoulda just kept her numbers to herself. Kept it quiet.”

Static burst from television and then the brother was on the man’s back. Sharp, dirty fingers probed for purchase in the man’s face. The man stumbled away and then backward into a dresser, cracking his brother’s head against the varnished wood. The brother moaned and collapsed onto the thin orange carpet. A trail of blood snaked from his ear to the comforter.

The man stood up heaving. He fished a hand into his brother’s pocket and pulled out the crumpled ticket. It was stamped. His ex-wife’s name was signed across the bottom.

The man placed his foot over his brother’s throat and waited.

The man did not watch the sky open up as he drove back down the salt starched highway. His mouth still tasted like dish soap and black coffee. The lottery ticket sat on the dusty dashboard. Jackpot read ten thousand. It had been cashed. All gone now—all salt into water.

The man did not watch the road. He did not watch the sun begin to melt the snow. He did not see the birds sitting high up in the telephone wires. The man had his eyes on the ditches.

He was looking for a yellow dress.


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Andrew F. Sullivan was born in Peterborough, Ontario. His fiction has recently been published on Joyland: a hub for short fiction and Dragnet Magazine. Sullivan's work will also appear in Riddle Fence and The Other Room later this year.


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