Of the thirteen bagels, only two were the whole-wheat sesame she favored. He ate only plain. That left eight bagels in various flavors not to their liking. He placed the remaining bagels in the freezer. Go ahead, she drawled, tastes do change.
Before he dressed his bagel, he spat onto the kitchen counter, wiped at the dried jam stain. She turned away and pushed her three fingers through the hole in her bagel, tried to force her thumb and pinkie inside. The bagel ripped.
That evening, they walked to the neighborhood Chinese for dinner. It was always about food, she thought. She linked her purse, navy as the sky. Two girls in their late teens walked in front, working that ragged, all-black, waif look. One wore mismatched earrings: a large silver hoop in one lobe, and in the other a black plastic hoop that encircled a crow. The crow’s glass blue eyes glittered. She had never worn mismatched earrings. It suddenly seemed a critical mistake.
The restaurant hostess wore jade-green contact lenses. The wife felt a pang, wanted to change her eye color. The hostess didn’t have a table available until ten-thirty. The couple couldn’t stay awake past nine o’clock. Not even for two? her husband pressed. His wife gritted her teeth. As they exited, the bell over the door tinkled. Outside on the sidewalk, the husband chuckled, said at first he’d thought the hostess said “talk dirty.” Time was his wife would have laughed.
He added, “Did you see her eyes?”
She didn’t care about dinner, still full from the bagels. The dig appeared lost on her husband. He couldn’t go without dinner. They returned home for the car. On the drive into town, they passed the new housing construction. Eight houses in the first development, but more would soon follow, eat into the wide green spaces.
Something huge and dark shot out from the woods and into the road. The car swerved, but still they side-swiped the animal. The husband hurried from the vehicle. She followed. They stared down at the enormous elephant they had felled, disbelieving. The car had gouged the elephant’s hind leg, slick red blood trickled its dull crevices. The injured elephant raised its head, roared its hurt and outrage. The husband ordered her back inside the vehicle, afraid the elephant might recover, charge. He jabbered about the circus in town, the emergency phone further down the highway.
He rubbed his bald pate. “Unbelievable.”
She looked deep into the elephant’s pain-filled eyes. “I’m sorry.”
Her husband patted the top of her arm. “Shush, now. It wasn’t your fault, dear.”
“I’m sorry,” she said again, waiting for her husband to see that she was looking straight at him.
Ethel Rohan has published widely, and is excited to have work forthcoming soon from DecomP, Necessary Fiction, and Potomac Review. She blogs at ethelrohan.com