SmokeLong Quarterly

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Days of Bargaining

Story by Donna Gagnon (Read author interview) March 15, 2005

Got smacked with another blizzard last night. I’m staggering around at 5:30 a.m., brewing coffee, finding gloves, a hat. My pyjama bottoms are jammed into two pairs of socks and heavy snow boots. Before I can light a smoke, I’m shoveling away from the door, down the path and I’m halfway to the car when one foot slips and I fall on my ass.

It’s quiet out here. I love that morning winter silence of stillness. Cold wind slaps my cheeks. I close my eyes and raise my face to the yet unrisen sun. Today will be lovely. You will call and I will say yes.

I sold the keyboard yesterday. Some kid – Brian – phoned. Saw my cardboard ad at the grocery store. Paid me $250 and carted the thing off in his rusted-out Cavalier, leaving brown frozen lumps of road crap in my driveway.

Today, I sang in the silence. Who needs keys to find the notes? Not me. The money was way more important. Now I can stop the bastards from cutting off the electricity.

You didn’t call. If you call, I told myself, stomping on the hard lumps of road crap, shoveling the broken bits off the driveway, chucking them into the bush, I will say yes and I will lose ten pounds.

It’s raining. Goddamn January and there’s thunder and lightning seeking revenge. Woke me up at 3 a.m. Impossible to sleep with all that power in the air, rumbling over my head. I lay in bed and tried to pretend that each booming echo of sound traveling across the sky was caused by a man lying next to me, snoring. And the crescendo, the big bang, was me slapping that man and telling him to roll over.

There’s no going anywhere today. Everything’s turned into ice. I could skate into town, if I still had a pair of skates. They were good skates. Sold them last winter.

When you call, I will ask when and I will steal $40 to put gas in my car.

Ice everywhere. The trees snackle and bend, bowing under crystal weight. My car is an ice palace and I am a princess waiting for springtime when everything will thaw. In the greenness, I will be with you and we will smell rich, damp earth together.

I watch Oprah on TV and wait for the phone to drag me out of lethargy.

First time I’ve been out of the house all week. It took me an hour to rescue the car from its ice prison. It was strange ice. Like glass. I banged on it with the end of my scraper, heard it crack, watched it shift. It was all slimy underneath and with one push, sheets of it slid off the roof and the windshield and the windows, tinkling at my feet.

In town, I spend what’s left of my last unemployment cheque on cigarettes, groceries and beer, put $20 worth of gas in the tank. Drive to a job interview. I’ve never managed a department store before but I’ve survived a number of off-the-wall, intense to the extreme entrepreneurs so I know I’ve got credibility.

When I’m hired, I’ll work overtime, make money and keep myself away from the goddamn phone.

I got the job and drained the beer to celebrate. Stayed in bed until late morning. Dreams remembered when I awoke left me feeling less cheerful than I wanted to feel.

You were there. Damn it, you’re always there. In my dreams. Only in the goddamn dreams. Smiling at me, touching my thigh, looking like a puppy that absolutely has to be taken home or it will die. I need to move on. Re-invent myself. Become someone who has a life and who does not wait for millions of days for the bloody phone to ring.

If you call now, you can fuck off.

I unplugged the phone. Read a book. Washed clothes and got ready for my first day at the store. This is going to be good. I’ll meet new people, create interesting adventures.

Then I heard tires crunching outside. Looked out the window. Threw my armload of freshly folded laundry into the air. Didn’t see it fall to the floor in slow motion. Held my breath as I watched you unfold yourself out of the car.

About the Author

Donna Gagnon lives in northern Ontario, Canada. Her work has been published in several now-defunct Canadian magazines and currently appears on bewrite.net and cafedoom.com. Her short story “Walking Home” will be featured in an upcoming Gatto Publishing e-anthology.

About the Artist

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison’s work here.

This story appeared in Issue Eight of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eight

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