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Story by M. Lynx Qualey (Read author interview) December 16, 2004

A buzz comes over the telephone line, drowning out her mother’s voice. Her gaze floats up to the shelf of dusty knickknacks—the high school pennant, the signed baseball, the bobblehead of that player he liked so much, the Mexican.

The electric hum grows louder and she can barely hear her mother on the other end, talking about train schedules or… She pinches the inside of her wrist, trying to concentrate.

You’ve got to stop this pining away business, her mother says. I tell you one thing, he’s not worrying about you. The hum gets louder, drowning out her mother’s voice, washing it away. The phone is stiff in her hands, and she stares at the picture on the wall, the one of them standing in the ocean’s shallows, feet sinking into muddy sand. She remembers the moment after that, how she tried to pull her feet out of the sand and they wouldn’t come, how she struggled and yanked, her hands grasping at air while he laughed and laughed and she lost her balance, arms windmilling as she fell, face-first into the salty water.

She sets the phone down, her mother still nattering, and slides the picture off its nail. The woman in the photo doesn’t look happy. Her smile is too wide, her shoulders bunched up around her neck. She seems worried that her thighs are jiggling and that the man isn’t having a good time and that any minute now he’s going to start yelling at the fidgety island boy who’s taking their picture.

Hello? her mother says. Did we get cut off? Hello, hello. Can you hear me?

She brings the photo halfway to her chest, a half-embrace, and then pulls it out, gazing at the man. He’s looking at the camera like he’s startled, like the moment before he had been staring off at the horizon, dreaming that he was somewhere else.

Well, her mother says, I’m hanging up now. Okay? I’m hanging up.

Okay, the woman says. Then she opens her hands and lets the picture fall.

About the Author

M. Lynx Qualey (mlynxqualey@yahoo.com) lives and writes and raises a one-year-old boy in Cairo, Egypt.

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 Seven of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seven

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