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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