Lauren, my new wife of four hundred and seventeen days and counting, is not eating her dinner. She is relating yet another tale of a gruesome departmental meeting when Danica, my dead ex-wife, appears to the right of Lauren’s shoulder and grimaces like she has a nasty abscess. Danica died three years ago on March sixth. She rolls her eyes and sticks a finger up her nose. I spit Shiraz over my shirtfront. It is funny, in a Mr. Bean sort of way. Lauren barks that being demeaned by her boss is not a funny story. She never tells funny stories.
When I tell her that my dead ex-wife is behind her, she doesn’t look around. Her doctoral thesis was on the Invariance of Laws of Physics Under Different Transformations. Her brows knit and she spreads the last bit of goose liver pate on her fermente. Her little finger quivers and her look measures me as a splattered bug on a newly-cleaned windshield. She speaks more to herself than to me, muttering that my Naproxen dosage needs an adjustment.
Danica flutters her own little finger, totally Comtesse de Lafayette, flips into a headstand, balancing in midair on that finger, brushes the chandelier with her feet. Her skirt flops onto her chest, revealing red panties. She winks and I laugh again. Lauren stalks off, leaving her canard a l’orange untouched. Fool is the loudest word in her tirade.
I sleep on the couch without any discussion. Danica waves good-night, sends an air-kiss, dissipates. In the morning I half-expect to wake with hairy bug-legs and a hard shell, or perhaps to hear thumps and screams from under the floorboards.
In the shower I call Looks it not like the King? Mark it, Horatio, but neither woman responds. Lauren is still sleeping. Danica fails to appear. Is it bells in my belfry? Never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee, I declaim and reduce myself to hysterics.
Lauren does not refer to the incident again. Why is Danica back now when she never appeared during my year’s grieving? The last four dinners, as Lauren is at her most tedious, Danica makes an entrance: creaks doors, scrapes pans, clinks wineglasses. Lauren, not hearing, raises her voice.
I am invigorated, clobber George, my lawyer and best friend, at squash. He asks if I am thinking of a divorce and when I snort that he’s been talking to Lauren, sidesteps. I tell him it’s a marathon I just signed up for, not a divorce.
I know a crash is inevitable but I look forward to the appearances. Every night another step closer to explosion. It might be fireworks tonight or perhaps she’ll visit once the lights are out. My breath quickens as I wait.
Some of Andrew Stancek’s recent publications include The Linnet’s Wings, River Poets Journal, Thunderclap Magazine, Orion Headless, A Twist of Noir and many others. THIS Literary Magazine nominated him for a Pushcart.