What He Asked, and How She Answered, fiction by Brian Carr

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. 


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