Sweet Nothing


In the kitchen of the hot house a widow stepped to the side. The plate shattered on the cow wallpaper and landed in the sink. Now that widow picked up a glass bottle of Coca Cola and threw it through the shadows beyond the doorway so it struck the other widow in the stomach. The bottle bounced back into the sunlit kitchen and plunked flat on the floor without tipping or spilling. They laughed now, pointing at it.

And for a moment the widows stopped being widows and became sisters. One fixed her hair back into a pony tail, just in case. The other rubbed her growing belly.

Nothing besides the obvious hurt.

And the hot house was even hotter than yesterday.

Out in the yard the garden hose had been forgotten about. Water poured out of the flower pot and ran down the narrow brick path until it began to inadvertently fill the many anthills that all led down into a system of tunnels. When the flood sent the ants racing out of their tunnels, and into the grass, the spiders were waiting and most of the spiders, of course, got an ant, pouncing, biting down. But some of the ants, sticking together, bested a spider, wrestling its life away.

Later that afternoon, one sister walked out of the screen door and sat smoking a cigarette on the tilted steps. Night was crawling down from the grimy clouds. She squinted. Across the road, a vulture was perched on top of a telephone pole, its wings folded and it pretending to be Death, like they do. Hey fucker, she called. She flung a rock and must have hit it. It flew away.

Then she noticed the muddy mess up to her ankles.

A short walk led her to the hose still babbling out, that side of the yard a swamp now. A perfect home for frogs. She turned the knob so the water came out a full gusher, fixed the burning cigarette behind her ear, pinched the hose off, and called her sister’s name, loud! and grating!

But the sister didn’t show she’d heard. Hot as the house was, the window stayed shut tight.

No matter, they’d keep buying Coca Cola, it was the only miracle frequently on sale.

And in a few days the purple flowers would be even more purple and all the anthills would be back.

She got comfortable, soaked the closed window until the moon said hello. Felt like all the dread draining out of her. Maybe to someone inside it sounded like welcome rain to break the heat.

The stars grew in sharpness, and she surrendered, shutting off the hose, coiling it up on the grass in one big ass lemniscate.

Gradually, it was believed from opposite ends of the kitchen table, next Wednesday or your birthday, or my birthday, or Christmas, or next Thursday we will reclaim ourselves, blink our eyes three times and be back from the great beyond, something that hadn’t happened to us since the fifth grade or even before.

She returned to the front steps, lit two cigarettes in habit, snuffed one out, felt fine.

First they put a pin into your heart. When you survive the little pin, they stick a knife. After that, they put a whole sword in your heart. If you’re still alive, they let you keep your poor scarred up heart, and though you’ve lost everything else because of it, they let you keep the thing that brought you to your knees.

One day you just wake up and most of your love is gone, but you’re yourself again, and now you have a sword.

So Karen got up, tossed the cigarette in the tiny swamp, went in to rile Dulci.


Bud Smith is the author of Double Bird, Work, Dust Bunny City, among others. He works heavy construction in New Jersey and loves you.