“Oh, look!” Roger slammed the brakes and steered into the shoulder, the tires cutting into the rubble across the yellow line. Kelly’s phone jumped out of her hand as the car screeched to a halt. To the right stood a teepee hut, barricaded by a razor-wire fence. Kelly rolled down the window and the sound of a tubular wind chime floated in.
Roger hopped out and started zooming his phone camera in and out to take a perfect photo of the teepee. The setting sun provides the best light for pictures, he always preached.
A middle-aged woman lifted the door flap and emerged from the hut, a cigarette in her hand, hair a honey-halo around her face. “Hey, hey, you can’t take a picture here,” she yelled. “It’s my property.” The woman moved towards the fence, her fingers untangling the sequin-studded skirt from the long, yellowed grass.
“Get in, Roger!” Kelly shouted. “C’mon, let’s go.”
Roger got back in, but not without clicking a photo of the angry woman with the teepee, even as she threatened to kill him. Kelly observed a twinge of satisfaction color Roger’s face as he buckled himself back in the driver’s seat.
“Why do you do this, Roger?” Kelly asked. “The woman could’ve pulled a gun on us.”
“The hell she would. What’s in a picture?” he smug-smirked and pulled his sleeve up with his teeth, the patch of gray hair on his forearm catching the bronzed day light. “Women make everything a big deal.”
The air in the car turned cold, although the temperature on the display showed 77 degrees. Kelly pulled a scarf from the glove compartment and wrapped it around her shoulders. “It could be a big deal for someone,” she said. “You just can’t take without asking.” A pain surged in her pelvis as she gazed out the window, away from Roger.
“Wait, what?” Roger eased his foot off the pedal. After a long minute, he said, “What’m I supposed to do, Kel? Go to the hookers, huh? You’re never in the mood.”
Kelly did not reply. Other cars passed them, the drivers glaring at their slow-moving vehicle. Roger pulled into the next gas station though the fuel needle showed half full, and flounced into the shop. After a minute, he came out with a packet of Marlboros. It had officially become another one of those days. Kelly felt warm inside the stopped car and stepped out. She sat on the small patch of grass by the side, littered with Wrigley wrappers and crumpled Lays plastic.
Roger stood beside her, puffing out gray rolls of smoke. After a few drags, he said, “Will you get a restraining order now, Kel? That’s what modern women do, right?”
Kelly clenched and crossed her legs. The burning from the tear yesterday morning had flared up, again. She had been beating eggs for breakfast, when Roger came from behind, started nuzzling her neck, running his hands over her breasts, and pulled her down to the floor as she squirmed under his weight. After the grunts, he had pulled on his pajamas and complained, “It’s a desert in there.”
“I won’t call the police on you, Roger,” Kelly stared at the tires of the cars pulling into the gas station. “You know I can’t be alone. Hell, I can’t even drive anymore. Speed gives me the jitters.” She felt a rush of warmth crawl under her skin and she wiped her neck with the sleeve. “But, my middle-age hormones are real. Not something any modern woman has invented.”
Roger crushed the cigarette stub and got in the car, the seat belt latching with an angry click. He rested his forehead on the wheel. Kelly continued to sit outside and watch the orange sky melding into the gray of twilight. She liked this hour. Normally, Roger would honk at her to get into the car, but that day he seemed to wait.
Kelly thought about her marriage, the twenty-three years she had been giving in to her husband’s demands, all the time being too shy to draw any attention, too timid, too accommodating, perhaps compensating for the kids her body couldn’t give him.
Just then, a screech drew her attention and she saw a rusty red vehicle pull into the other end of the parking space. The teepee woman stepped out, slamming the door, her lips moving to form cuss words, it appeared.
Kelly rose and slipped back into their car, occupying the familiar passenger seat, bruised blue by her denim. She nudged Roger, snoring softly with his mouth open. He blinked his eyes and said, “You know, I’m . . . ,” but Kelly cut him off. “Just drive,” she said, pointing to the teepee woman heading towards the illuminated “Open” sign on the glass doors in front of them. Roger pulled the car out onto the road and the odometer touched 40, 50, 55, 60 as mosquitoes and moths continued to dive in and kill themselves on the windshield.
About the author:
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American writer. Born and raised in India, she later migrated to the USA. A technologist by profession and a writer by passion, she is the author of Morsels of Purple, a flash fiction collection, and Skin Over Milk, a prose chapbook. She is a Prose Editor at Janus Literary and a Submissions Editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. More at https://saraspunyfingers.com. Reach her @PunyFingers
Header image: Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash