THEY ARE STRAPPED IN THEIR upside-down car for hours before the firemen, slicing through metal, free them. The deer comes out of nowhere and when Clyde swerves the car flips. The airbags release, with a moments harsh embrace, then deflate. When Arleen says: “Fuck!” in a tone familiar to him he is finally able to breathe again.
Arleen has a limp for many months after the accident and he has a hard time opening and closing his right hand, which they consider a minimal, if not a miraculous, consequence. In the upside-down car with the blood rushing to his head and the silence quickening his heart, he looks over at his wife and screams her name. Then her eyes spring open and she blurts out: “Fuck!” he tries the door. It’s no longer is a car door, but a locked door to a vault. “Try yours,” he says, as she reaches down and brings up a red wet hand from her ankle.
He is not particularly religious but he begins to bargain with the sky (empty or otherwise) through the bottom of the car, his roof now. Not knowing if there is anything beyond it, but the crickets’ scraping chirps or the insistent scent of a skunk a half-mile away. He decides to hedge his bets.
Tomahawk Peace Pipe
Part of the deal he makes (he presumes) with the crickets, is to transition from hard liquor to beer, and then to ween himself off drink altogether.
Now they are on vacation in Mexico. He agrees to spend the day gift shopping and gives Arleen two days’ worth of back massages in exchange for taking her to a bullfight. She thinks the picador is handsome, before he sticks his colorful lances into the bull. He had, she felt, a stately look about him on his stately horse prior. Now she sees something else: a cruel, unfeeling look that perhaps was always spring-loaded. Cruel/stately—she begrudges them being so interchangeable. Like the tomahawk peace pipe Clyde bought online. Which was it after all?—something to split a head open, or a smoky handshake?
Clyde holds his beer in his uninjured hand. There is a small flask of whiskey in the breast pocket of his jacket.“You’re drinking too much again,” Arleen says.
“Hemingway,” he tells her. “This is our day. Me and Papa.”
The Matador’s sword goes in, and she turns away. The bull buckles to its knees. Clyde shoots up with the crowd and cheers. Blood spills out into the dirt.
“Hemingway’s dead,” she says, but he is lost amid the crowd’s, and his own, stormy applause. The flask is just above his heart (right where he wants it). He can feel it pounding there.
Robert Scotellaro’s work has been included in W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, Gargoyle, Matter Press, New World Writing, Best Small Fictions 2016, 2017, Best Microfiction 2020, and elsewhere. He is the author of seven literary chapbooks and five flash and micro story collections. He was the winner of Zone 3’s Rainmaker Award in Poetry and the Blue Light Book Award for his fiction. He has, along with James Thomas, co-edited New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, published by W.W. Norton & Co. Robert is one of the founding donors to The Ransom Flash Fiction Collection at the University of Texas, Austin. Visit him at robertscotellaro.com.