By Hyl Norman
My daughter comes with three hot dogs and my sandals she fixed, and calls me back to earth. I count the thirty-two beads on the neckline of her shirt. A happy number.
She says, “The boys will be here soon.” She always tells me because I sometimes mistake one of them. His face, I’ve told her. It’s in everything.
“Is it almost the day?” the younger one asks.
I pretend I have to check.
A winter morning. I am twenty-three, prime. He works in the factory, the one across the road from this old house, my station. I have a night job, counting money. I wait in Lot C for him to come away on break. We sit in my rumbling powerful car and fog it up and share a little flask of Hennessy. He leans in to me and whispers that I smell like summertime. His face presses into my neck, molding its shape.
Now I count the squares with glass, then the squares where the panes are missing, the pigeon-holes. They are not in perfect rows. Some are slightly higher or lower or a different size. I count these separately and add them to the total. I begin to suspect before I finish that there will be 151. There are, exactly. A lucky prime. You can put yourself between its halves.
If I smoke a bowl while they cut the grass I can fly up to one of the pigeon-holes and go right into blackness where I will hear his voice. The boys pretend they don’t see.
I sit in one of the two Adirondack chairs he made. Its arms are his arms. When I have been away and come back, the lawn looks inviting with the chairs sinking into it, beautiful but heavy with symbolism, like a cross on a hill.
But there’s no savior. This row of factory housing is falling down. I am the last struggling fly on the windowsill, bodies all around me.
Add three for the stories of this house, five for other men, two for the chairs, one for our child. Add 1995, the year he left, the year the factory closed. Across other work, other men and all the years, reminders persist. Across the road, the peeling paint of the factory wall draws his shape, the big shoulders and bushy hair.
He comes today. He strides across the grass, toes wet and green. I rise to meet him. I am almost floating, big and powerful. And stoned. He is ruined. An eyelid permanently closed. He leans in, drops into the face-shaped hollow of my neck. I stand between the halves of my life, kissing him. Once for every month I’ve remembered to count. A happy number.
– Hyl Norman lives in the Midwest. Her writing desk is cluttered with a pile of unpublished novels. Her short fiction has appeared in Midwestern Gothic and an anthology by Cat & Mouse Press. She recently completed a psychological mystery for young adults.