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Fiction #378
(published April 17, 2008)
by Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz
He woke to her scampering in the dark and from the bed, he listened as she rustled through their clothes on the chair, the metal buckle of a belt clanking through the air; as she opened drawer after drawer of the chest, pushing the contents to one side and then the other; as her fingers fumbled over the dresser top, knocking things over and her apparently not giving a thought to him trying to sleep.

He watched her dump the clothes onto a heap on the floor and then slumping into the empty seat.

"What're you looking for?" he asked.

"A smoke."

There were no more; he'd taken thoughtful drags from the last cigarette between placing the lit end against her dark skin.

She sighed, reached over and shoved the drawers closed, one after another.

He waited a moment then he rose, took her hand and tugged her back to the bed.

"We'll get more in the morning," he said, sure there was no place open nor would he let her go if there were, into this southern night.

"We'll only smoke them from now on," he said aloud.

It had been her, bringing what they anticipated into their home; the idea coming perhaps in that moment as she passed him one morning, following breakfast, stopping and turning her coffee cup over above his head.

He'd sprung from his chair, his hair and shirt wet and clinging. The coffee was almost cold, but still his eyes were irate, his hands clenched.

She'd only looked at him and said, "That's not non-violent."

The next morning, they were in the bathroom. She was fixing her hair before the mirror above the sink and, done peeing, he'd moved to wash his hands, leaning toward her ear.

"Nigger," he'd whispered harshly.

He'd never said the word before.

Her confused eyes held his blue in the reflected glass.

She'd never been called the word before.

"Nigger, nigger, nigger," he'd chanted until she raised the brush again and, with calm, ran it through her hair.

"Only smoking them," he said again, running trembling fingers across the blisters on her back.

He turned her to him, looked into the face he could never strike, even if she asked.

Kissing her, he moved himself over her, entered her, drove with an intensity; trying to take them back to the place where she once loved him fierce as she did this revolution.

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