Her Lips

by Claudia Smith June 15, 2006
story art

Praying hands on a cedar box. I kept it empty, because nothing seemed important enough for it. I liked to close my eyes and sniff the wood. With my eyes closed, the box was a forest and I was inside.

My husband tells me I’m a target, the way I lean forward, courting everyone. We are just married. He thought that was all for him. I tell him that the world is my target. Everyone will love me. I read about Marilyn, how she wanted to be the most beautiful woman in the room, and how she was. Even though she wasn’t. I don’t want to be the most anything, I say. Good, because you aren’t. He’s angry.

My impression of Marilyn, my husband tells me, was that she acted with her lips.

He wants me to tell him something I don’t tell everyone, some story that hasn’t taken shape yet. I tell him about the cedar box. Is that true? He asks me.

Yes, only I’m not sure about the part where I close my eyes and there’s a forest.

But that’s the best part, he says.

Well, it’s true now. We are lying down on a mattress with the covers pulled up to our necks. My dog, now our dog, wants to climb in bed with us but there’s no room. It’s a twin. Lie down, Daffodil, I tell her.

I take my clothes off under the covers. It’s cold. With my eyes closed, I can feel him better. He smells of smoke and musk. His heart under my ear. I’m not drinking again, I tell him. I won’t tell any secrets to anyone but you, ever again.

He’s falling into sleep. The dog is snoring. I want to get up, get out. Go out in the cold and walk to a bar, where there’s a only a few and I don’t know them.

About the Author:

Claudia Smith's stories have been anthologized in W.W. Norton's The New Sudden Fiction and So New Media's Consumed: Women on Excess. Her flash fiction collections, The Sky Is A Well And Other Shorts (reprinted in the book), A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness and Put Your Head In My Lap are available from Rose Metal Press and Future Tense books, respectively. Her new collection of stories, Quarry Light, is now available from Magic Helicopter Press.