Tuesday, October 29, 2013


            The letter was separating along the folds and the slight pressure of his fingers had thinned the paper in the swirls of his fingerprint. He wondered if a magnifying glass—or microscope—x-ray—would reveal how many times he had unfolded the pale blue paper, held it in one hand, steadied it with the second when it fluttered, flitted, nearly blew away.
            Why paper so thin, nearly transparent when he first read it and now, nearly gone. The words in her odd green ink hadn’t faded. They were still sharp and clear. Her round hand with its perfect Os, curving V, long, long L. She was proud of that hand. No artist in my family, she said once, but we all can write.
            Modestly. Her hallmark. She could write. Her mother had no time for foolishness and her father, he suspected, couldn’t. He’d seen the old man flip open the newspaper, scan the pictures, snort politics and pass it to her mother.
            “You rescued me,” she said once, and he knew it to be true.
            Then she unrescued herself. He’d even said, “What about the rescue?” but she didn’t hear him, didn’t seem to hear, pretended not to hear, left. Left. She left.
            Left the letter—his letter, not hers.
            Dearest, she had written—didn’t use his name—her natural reticence—or was it a form letter? A new thought that shamed him. Of course not.
            Dearest, she had written. Yes, okay, yes, I will. Something crossed out. He’d tried to read it over the years, scraped off so much ink that it was now a hole in the paper. I will marry . . . Big space. Marry who? She didn’t say. He saw that now. All these years and just now, today, he sees that she didn’t say who she intended to marry.
            What about “dearest?”
            She signed it, Respectfully, S.
            Modesty, he thought at the time. Made him love her more. Want her more.
            Now he saw her cowardice. And crumpled the letter.

© 2013 Kathleen Coskran

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


            She stuffed her hands in her armpits. Freezing to death, she said, then pulled them out and tried to press them against his warm belly, under his shirt, but he was too fast—the belly and he were gone, in the next room, disappeared before she could get to him. He knew her.
            She didn’t pursue. Pursuit’s not my game, she yelled. Coward, she yelled. Next time, she yelled. Then he heard the buzz of the microwave heating—probably boiling—her day old coffee. Disgusting.
            She had no standards. Ate old food, put on whatever in the morning, would have gone to work in her slippers if he hadn’t stopped her.
            But I work at home, she had said.
            Yes, but you can’t really be effective unless you are properly dressed.
            Properly dressed, she said, echoing his inflection perfectly and taking his advice to heart, he hoped. He did notice she had on clogs, not his first choice, but better than slippers and more expensive. He knew that. Who do you think wrote out the checks, kept clear, readable records of all their accounts, knew the location of every penny coming in, saved, and going out? It’s what she liked, no, loved about him, she said. The orderliness.
            I can look at my calendar and my watch, she said and know where you are and what you are doing.
            In a momentary loss of control, he had said, “And you like that?”
            “Yes,” she had beamed. “You are my exotic.”
            And she was his—the exotic creature he’d never understand, so much his opposite that she left him spinning more often than he’d ever admit, but interested, oh, so interested in everything about the exotic creature who refused to take his name, but embraced everything else, his sound, his look, his taste, his touch. Oh, yes, his touch, everything, everywhere except her cold little hands on his warm belly.
            Even exotics have to be controlled.

© 2013 Kathleen Coskran

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Chatter Chatter

            Turn the lights on. That’s all he said, all I remember, and then he was gone.
            “I got up, fumbled for my slippers, my robe, the switch, turned the lights on and saw I was alone. I hadn’t heard a door open or close—missed in the mumble for my slippers and robe, I guess, but I was alone.
            “I looked in every room. Didn’t take long. You can see it’s a small house. He was gone. I was there alone.
            “So. What? I sat down to think, wrapped my robe tighter to collect myself, hold myself in. The bathrobe he gave me last Christmas. No. Two years ago. 2011. Yes, that’s it.
            “Surprised me. Perfect color. My favorite deep blue.
            Like your eyes, he said. That’s all. He was never one for much talk or conversation. Left that to me, he said.
            Guess I talk enough for 2, I said.
            Or 3. Our son, like him, not much conversation.”
She reties the robe, smiles. Just enough.
“Just the right amount. Not like me. Talk talk talk.” She laughs again.
How do you know what to say? our son once said.”
            “And he said, before I could explain, he said, She doesn’t have to say anything. It’s just chatter chatter chatter.”
Bright smile—tears. “He was right. We all knew it. Chatter chatter chatter.”
            A laugh. “At least I’m good at it. Got to be good at something. I’m good at talk.”
            Stands up. Reties the robe again. “Well, sorry for calling you in the middle of the night, Officer, but the way he left like that—an old man.
“No, he won’t be back. Look. Everything gone. Turn the lights on. That’s what he meant, turn the lights on and look. “
The closet door gapes; the closet half-empty.
            “I’m sorry for calling you. Really. Nothing to do. I know. No crime committed. I’ll go back to bed. Sorry. I’m sorry. Just needed somebody to talk to, but that’s not your job, is it?”