At the window, with it open, as rain sang across the land once dry, so the rain slipped in threads of current down cracks and toward the lows, the man wiped his glasses free of spray—beads that had hit the sill and splattered at him. He cleared his throat, put the glasses back on, picked up a cigarette weaving smoke into the pale-yellow room—a light cast by a single bulb dangling above the kitchen table from a cord, makeshift.
“Would you say,” said the man now ashing his cigarette, smoke staining his words, his eyes toward the rain, “that I am very brave?” He then looked at a woman, wrapped in a blanket, her eyes tight against the chill, her body frail with age and labor, her hair winced gray by days. She tightened the blanket across her shoulders, leaned against a wall—faded white paint, cracked and spotting.
“These days?” she said, and looked now at the rain, sighed as if she knew it only came to wash her off the land, to hoist their home from its foundation in a torrent toward the death of it—nature ravaging its boards and bones to splinters and shingles and scraps and refuse that would toss wildly in the breath of flood until it came to rest unrecognizable. She closed her eyes. Turned from the man. “I wouldn’t even call you handsome.”
These days the couple bickered, made fights from moments others might let pass silently, but in the past they would hold hands until the warmth of their palms birthed a slickness from sweat, but even then their fingers stayed clasped through the damp. They’d speak cute phrases to each other—the man warmly cooing her name, the woman smiling when she heard him coo it. But that music had faded from them.
The man looked at the woman, nodded, said, “I’m ugly,” he said, “but ugly men can live bravely.”
“They can,” said the woman, and she stayed silent a moment so only the sound of rain filled the room, and she looked at the man, lazily blinked her eyes, smiled so slightly only she could sense it. “But I’ve never seen it.”
The man shrugged. He ashed his cigarette mildly. He turned back toward the rain. They didn’t speak for a long time.
Brian Allen Carr's debut collection Short Bus is out with Texas Review Press, and his next book, Vampire Conditions, is out soon with Holler Presents, and it will play card tricks for you and hide your keys. He teaches at University of Houston-Victoria, and he wants you to visit.