Still Life with Tilt, fiction by C.C. Russell

(originally published in Oyster Boy Review)

“I guess if my life was a painting, It’d have to be one of a girl with ratty hair playing a pinball game.”  Her head tilted back as she blew smoke into the air.  I was staring at her neck as if I had never seen it before.  The floating dock bobbed slightly as the waves from a passing boat finally reached us.  “What about you?”  She turned towards me and sucked again on her cigarette.  I watched the heat as it came so close to her lips.

“I don’t know.  I guess maybe a bowl of fruit.  Except that you’re looking at it from underneath, like through a glass coffee table and all you can see is a few grapes sticking out over the edge.  The grapes would have to look real fake, too.  I don’t know.”  I shrugged.  I always said ‘I don’t know’ around her.  It was how she made me feel.

“I understand.”  She said.  She didn’t.

“The only way you could be painted playing that pinball game is if the quarter slot was unlocked and you had unlimited plays.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I don’t know.”  I shrugged.  The dock bobbed again and she dropped her cigarette into the water.  I strained to hear the way it sizzled when it hit and reached for my own pack.  I was trying to quit and she knew it, but she chain smoked around me.  She liked power.  She liked having things I wanted and didn’t want to want.  She liked having things I was trying to forget.  I lit the cigarette slowly, watching the flame of the convenience store lighter flicker in the breeze off of the waves.

“I thought you were trying to quit.”

“I am.”  I wanted to tell her that I knew I was the fucking ball in her little pinball game and that I was sick of pretending that I wasn’t.  But I didn’t.  I watched he adjust her one-piece out of the corner of my eye.  She knew I was watching.  The dock bobbed.  I tilted back my head and blew smoke into the air.

She smiled and ran a lake-wetted finger slowly down my neck.  “I think you’d be able to see more than just grapes.”

“I don’t know.”  I shrugged and exhaled.  The dock bobbed.  I dropped my cigarette into the water and listened for the sizzle as it hit.  I pulled another out of the pack.

“I thought you were trying to quit.”

“I was.

russellC.C. Russell lives in Wyoming with his wife and daughter.  He has held a wide variety of jobs – everything from hotel maintenance and dive bar DJ to retail management.  He has also lived in New York and Ohio.  His writing has appeared here and there on the net and on paper.  You can follow him on Twitter @c_c_russell if you are so inclined.

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