forest in the early morning 
by Susan Tepper 

So call me prick.  My ex— she could tear into me with the expletives.  Even when the kids were small.  Those round innocent faces staring up at Mommy and Daddy.  At first it raised the hair on my neck.  After a while nothing.  You get used to it.  I can't help myself.  I love women.  I love them to bursting.  They're like seeds you get in those little Burpee seed packets from the hardware store.  That you put in a soil container and remember to water.  Then you get a flower.  Lots if you're lucky.  I had weekends where I'd use the going out to buy socks routine all weekend.  Socks after more socks.  She never asked to see them.  Not once.  I used the same crumpled food bag with the same blue socks.  Took it straight out of that Meryl Streep movie.   The one where Meryl finally catches on.  Smashes him in the face with a key lime pie.  Clarice smashed things.  No pies.  One time she smashed my tropical fish tank.  The glass was too thick to shatter but the fish were a mess.  It was carnage.  I sank to my knees in our bedroom.   She'd laughed.  I know you've always hated my fish I said.  Water had slopped onto the Berber carpet.  The dog came running in and scooped up most of the fish.  Everything seemed to happen in a micro-second.  Clarice packed her LV duffle bag.  I called in a carpet cleaning service.  Even after the clean-up a smell like low tide hovered.  I moved my laptop into the living room.  The girls online were cute in their old pictures.  I thought of calling Clarice's sister but they were tight.  I thought about going out and restocking the tank.  I stayed in drinking bourbon and smoking.  The smoke gave the fish smell a forest-in-the-early-morning scent.  I thought about taking a painting class.  I could learn to paint large landscapes like George Innes.  Canvases.  Easel.  Paint.  Paint brushes. All that stuff.  I abandoned the idea.  I went back online.  I wrote a girl name Arielle.  She looked nineteen in her photo.  She was dark.  Clarice a blonde.  It seemed like a good switch.  I sent her my photo and she didn't write back.  The weather turned warmer.  I phoned my son who said you fucked it up with Mom.  C'mon I told him.  Give your old man a break.  I phoned my daughter who was icicles.  I have my own problems was what she said.  The neighbors started calling the cops.  The cops came a couple of times.  You have to walk him they said.  They wanted to know was there a reason.  They wanted to know did I have a bum leg.  He likes the yard I said.  They said the Board of Health would have to be notified.   Too much shit piling up back there.  One cop sniffed.  He looked around the living room.  I don't sell drugs I told them.  There's this smell the cop said.  Oh that I said.  From the dead fish.  The cops looked at each other.  One raised his eyebrows.  Do I need to call a lawyer I said.   The smaller cop narrowed his eyes.  Only if you done something bad.  I shook my head and said I didn't know.

Susan Tepper is the author of Deer & Other Stories (Wilderness House Press, 2009) and the epistolary novel What May Have Been: Letters of Jackson Pollock and Dori G (Cervena Barva Press, September 2010) which she co-authored with Gary Percesepe. Over 100 of Susan's stories and poems have been published in journals worldwide.  She has been nominated five times for the Pushcart Prize, hosts FIZZ, a reading series at KGB Bar in NYC, and is Assistant Editor of Istanbul Literary Review.

1 comment:

  1. I keep coming back to this piece. I can't even put my finger on what makes it so unusual and special, but I can say that I haven't read anything else like that. Your writing is tremendous.