Female Education
  Flash Fiction by Rita Ciresi
  Four Ways of Looking at a Wife Some Things You Can Ask Me Burned Lowlands
Disposal Bargains Office Party Old Flames On His Way to American History
Through the White & Drifted Snow Imaginative Writing Notes for a Very Long Love Story Female Education Maybe the Mermaids

  About the Author  |  echapbook.com  |  Summer 2019 Fiction Issue

Four Ways of Looking at a Wife

I. Home Ec

In high school industrial arts, the boy who will become the Husband makes a wooden birdhouse. Across the hall in home ec, the girl who will become the Wife bakes biscuits and bran muffins and zucchini bread.

After graduation the boy and the girl marry. The Wife stays in the kitchen and the Husband sets up shop in the garage. But after the kids are born they’re hard pressed to pay the mortgage, so the Wife goes to work.

After typing and copying and filing for eight hours, she swings by the grocery store. There she buys a yellow box for the daughter who lives on crackers, a blue and orange box for the son who eats only mac-n-cheese, and a red and green box that holds a frozen pizza, hard and flat as a Frisbee—the sole thing she has the energy to serve the Husband for dinner.

The stove preheats. The Wife stares out the window at the wooden birdhouse the Husband made years ago, now hanging from a crooked branch on the backyard birch tree. She wants to crawl into its tiny hole and portal herself back to home ec, where girls chattered away like happy little wrens as they waited for their muffins to rise in hot ovens.

II. His Return Is Questionable

At first the Wife feels abandoned when her husband falls deep into fantasy football. But then she gets her own fantasy going.

She picks a handsome quarterback. Two big running backs. Two big wide receivers. A tackle who looks like a Rottweiler on steroids. A flex player with a long name that spreads from one wide shoulder to the next.

But of the eight fantasy men the Wife puts into play, she treasures most the kicker. For years he’s played in a stadium with no dome. In rain and wind and sleet and snow, he sends the ball sailing through the goal posts with such accuracy that the sportscasters marvel, “And he drills it through again!”

During the sixteen weeks she becomes a football widow, the Wife dreams about the kicker’s every movement.

Come February, when the Husband finally comes up for air, the fantasy kicker should fade into the distance of the Wife’s imagination, becoming as muddy brown as the crust left behind on the Super Bowl guacamole. But he still burns bright green in her mind, like turf after a long hard rain.

III. Unwanted Gifts

Over the years the Husband gave her so many of them: knives that lost their edge, pots with lids that buckled. But the pajamas bothered the Wife the most. Every Christmas—perhaps inspired by the L.L. Bean catalog covers that showed happy couples and their children in matching plaid flannels—the Husband gave her a new pair of pjs.

The flannel—always some shade of her favorite color, blue—was thin and bore a J.C. Penney label marked MEDIUM. Medium—even when, before the kids, she’d been a small. Medium—even now, after the kids were grown and gone, and anyone who bothered to look at her would instantly see large.

Every year the Wife took those pajamas back to the mall and stood in line for twenty minutes on aching feet before she got to the head of the return line, feeling blue as the flannel when she told the clerk, These just don’t fit.

IV. Marital Property

The book was called What Happens to Rover When the Marriage is Over? The Wife was too embarrassed to buy it, so she read it in one of those comfy armchairs at the back of the store where college students watched YouTube on their laptops and senior citizens took naps.

She hadn’t told him—the Husband, that is—she was planning to file for divorce. But she had whispered in her fur baby’s ear—don’t worry, Mama will never really leave you—every morning before she left for work and every night after she came home freshly showered “from the gym.”

Their beagle was the one thing the Wife wanted to salvage from their marriage. Which meant that he—the Husband, that is—was sure to hang onto the only thing she wanted as tightly as she held the other man in bed, knuckles clenched and nails sunk deep into his back.

  © Rita Ciresi, 2019

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