The hand on the clock inched itself closer to two with every second that passed in its infinite journey of circles. He watched the black hand moving on the small watch his wife had given him for his birthday five years ago. He was on the couch, a long outdated piece of furniture with worn fabric along every edge and small round black burns of cigarettes that pocked it like the marks on an old man long past his prime. Each burn was a memory that smelled of tobacco and melted synthetic fabric, a moment when he coasted from the relative consciousness required for a TV show to the space of melted trees and illogical planes. Here, the cigarette could never remain in his mouth, and as it fell and began to burn, he was always granted another chance of life. When the entire house already reeked of cigarette smoke, something always came to him, the distinctly different smell of melting fabric, and he always awoke, somewhat startled, to find the couch burning. Now, the house was completely quiet.
The bright light of the afternoon was seeping into the house from the large, bare windows. Inside, it was calm and warm and subdued, and everything appeared to be peaceful, the dishes were washed and everything was tidy, but within him, nothing was calm as he watched the second hand move. Outside, the sun bestowed the warm day’s light on the rural land. There were rows of almond trees occasionally mixed with some old oaks for as far as the eye could see.
In the silence, he heard a single shot.
The sound echoed in the stillness of the hour.
It was a single shot.
Perhaps his neighbor hunting rabbits, he thought, with a passing interest. Besides the shot, he could not find another sound. The refrigerator had stopped humming, the birds were quiet, he had fixed the dripping faucet a week ago, so now, it too melted into the vacuous chamber. The men in the fields had stopped working an hour ago, retiring all the yellow machinery to the large warehouses a couple miles away, so he didn’t hear the distant echoes of tractors or the dim Spanish profanity. There was not a small plane overhead, not a fly that had found its way inside, not a cricket out by the pond, and it was so quiet…and not a sound from the gaping hole of a mouth in his wife, the aging model who had left him four hours and 26 minutes and seven seconds ago…eight…nine…ten…she had taken a suitcase and walked out the door, a final move after 2 years of constant threats and midnight wailing.
He had watched as she packed her small bag, too small he thought, for all the clothes she had stockpiled over the years. It still boggled his mind, he didn’t know where she had bought all the various shorts and shirts and little dresses, there were no shopping plazas within 200 miles. All he knew was that he would come home after a ten hour day of working in the fields and she would be standing in the doorway with a new dress or a new pair of shoes or a new shirt. When he had first brought her here, he had liked seeing her smile so brightly in her new clothes, she looked just as fresh and clean as the garments that covered her naked body. But after a couple years, after she no longer met him at the door and when he would find her asleep on the bed in a new dress without a warm meal waiting for him on the stove and the house unkempt …that’s when he began to get mad.
Where the hell were the clothes coming from? He always wondered, but never asked. He kept his suspicions to himself. He kept his accusations inside. The only thing that seeped from him was the growing sense of fury and dissatisfaction and he always let her know in the middle of the night, when he grabbed fistfuls of her hair in both hands and pushed himself inside of her without warning, without foreplay, without a moment for her to get ready and wet. His eyes would open from a dream and he would feel the heat emanating from his cock and he would rapidly push her flat on her stomach with both of his rough hands and he would grab her by the hips and pull her ass into the air and he would pull down her panties and grab her by her long brown hair and he would force himself inside within seven seconds. And although the pattern repeated at least every other night and although each night he seemed to tear through her with a little more force, she would always be too shocked to scream. Her neck was always too cocked to get a big breath and her mind was on the pain of her head and the dry thrusting in her pussy and she couldn’t scream, not then. Afterwards, she would silently cry on her side of the bed, but when he pushed himself in, allowing his anger to explode into her, she could never let out a sound, she could hardly breath, and knowing that, knowing her silence was caused by his pain, not the lack of it, he pushed himself in harder, faster, until she felt his frustration, until his fury became hers, when his pain overwhelmed her and she began to pant and bleed, then it would all come out in a stream of white anger, then, after he had passed the chaos of his energy into her, then he could fall asleep again and she would let out her own silent sadness.
Sitting on the couch, in the late light of afternoon, now that the sun was turning into the golden cousin of the sun that was before, he thought again about her new clothes, the mystery of their origin, the mystery he had never dared to ask, instead, and in place of questions, he had let the silence turn to poison. The woman didn’t even have a running car most of the time! Where had they come from?
He pictured her now with her father, driving in the golden light of the fading sun, driving back to the city in which he had found her so many years ago. He smiled, remembering how he had spotted her on the side of the road, her rear wheel as flat as a pancake and her face as frozen in disbelief as a deer in headlights. He had pulled his big truck over immediately and offered her some help. Later, he bought her a cup of coffee and then some dinner and then…,she invited him to her small apartment and she thanked him properly for all he had done for her that afternoon. She thanked him good, real good. Her mouth thanked him so good he never wanted to let her go.
Looking back now, remembering that day, he felt like a victim of his cock. An unwitting bystander to the primal seduction of a warm, wet tongue and a woman’s eagerness to please. The rest of him, everything other than his cock, was a victim of the orgasm, the release he found in the grasp of her thick, parted lips. How did it happen? The romance, the wedding, the move? The past was like a blur, a fast moving haze of trucks and tractors and new clothes, and fresh meals and almond trees in the summer and nightgowns on the floor.
He was right back where he had started, alone in a big ranch house, with a couple more gray hairs and rougher hands and some memories that would fade in another couple of seasons. His father had warned him about women, he remembered the warning, he had probably been seven years old, his dad had been drinking and from across the room, rather suddenly, the old man had shouted, "never trust a beauty that will suck ya off!" At the time, he didn’t understand, he was only seven, but it always stuck with him, the sudden outburst from his father that had sprung without provocation, and because of this odd manifestation, he had kept the words with him always, although, the warning had really done him no good, since he married the first woman to suck him off that wasn’t an honest-to-goodness prostitute.
She had been a model, she had worked a couple international shows she had said, but when he met her, as far as he could figure, she was living off an inheritance. She had seemed willing to give up her apartment and move to the heartland, the real honest-to-goodness America, where real men worked the land and fed the country. He was one of the few father’s of the country god-damnit! He fed the hungry mouths, he brought food to the children! He was their real father!
He heard another shot.
It echoed a bit louder, bouncing off the meticulously planted almond groves and into the stillness of the house . The light outside had turned from gold to the dim haze of blue, the last of the sunlight was leaving. In the house, all the lights were off. In the near darkness, he could still make out the hands of his watch, 2 o’clock had long since passed.