photo by Matt Walker
Mrs. Jones plucked her broom from the corner and pressed her cheek to the wooden handle. She slumped her shoulder against it and moved her face up and down. A splinter tickled her skin, excitement trilling through her limbs. She pressed her cheek harder to the broom. The splinter pierced her skin and she ground her cheek firmer, grunting softly and adjusting her grip on the handle. When she pulled away, she left watery blood streaks behind. A splinter lodged in her left cheek.
The bomber was Mrs. Jones’s boyfriend but he was often busy. He was a lone wolf with his own life’s specific interests and demands, he said. He needed time and space to let his mind roam. He’d only exploded something in front of Mrs. Jones once, a tiny baby bomb he’d baked into a cake. They set it in the bathtub and watched from the doorway. Batter and frosting spattered onto the walls. Mrs. Jones clapped her hands with glee, then flung herself toward the bomber.
When too much time went by without the bomber, Mrs. Jones put baking soda into film canisters and lined them up on the kitchen table. She stood with her broom, clutching the handle in anticipation. She closed her eyes as soon as the vinegar made the small explosions. She pretended the bomber’s coarse voice coming from the broom.
“Boom,” he liked to whisper.
Mrs. Jones went to the mirror. She saw her small studio, with its island separating the bedroom from the kitchen. A package of noodles was open on the granite counter. A pot filled with water sat on the unlit stove. Mrs. Jones turned her cheek and poked at the splinter. Each poke sent a tremor of pain through that side of her face.
She poked it hard once, lodging it deeper. Blood seeped from the wound. Mrs. Jones smiled. She turned her covers down and put the broom beneath them, drawing the sheets up over the handle and patting lovingly. She hummed to herself and turned off the other lights in her studio. She climbed into bed beside her broom, wrapped her hands around him, and whispered into the bristles. She said Mount St. Helens and Hiroshima. She dared him to combine chemicals and tape and throw them into mailboxes and listen for aluminum tear, the thunk of a wooden post. She fluttered her lips against the bristles, the handle. She felt the ash on her lips, the dust in her nose. She nuzzled her splinter against the metal rings that kept the handle and bristles together. She fell asleep, the possibility of a future rumble quieting the wound in her cheek.
Jen Gann's work has or will appear in American Short Fiction, Annalemma, Gigantic, elimae, and others. She lives in California and is online here: jengann.com.
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