Issue Thirty-Five - Winter 2020

Hannah’s Chrysanthemums

By K. Andrew Turner

The scent of fresh-cut grass assaulted me, like the raucous play of the children in the park across the street. I squinted from the bright light. Several cars cruised by, music streaming from their open windows. Rex, on his leash, whined. I had the plastic bag at the ready, sweat dripping from my clenched fist. He pulled on my arm to run toward the park, but I hushed him. He’d just have to go here, in the small strip of city lawn. Rex whimpered again, looking back at me.

“Come on,” I said to him again. “Mama wants to go back to her dear friend Captain Morgan.”

He whined again at one of passing cars.

“No, no, mean mommy isn’t coming back.”

I’ve taken what I need, do whatever you want with the rest. Hannah had scoured the apartment last weekend and taken everything that was hers—and probably a few things that weren’t. The whole thing was still a blur. I don’t love you.

“Hurry up.” I tugged on the leash.

I had read her novel of a text several times. A headache grew like a storm on the horizon. I choked back the constriction in my throat, and half-hugged my loose shirt tighter across my chest. It no longer felt so warm.

Rex tugged on the leash again. I looked at the pile of shit on the grass and couldn’t bother with it. I felt unable to do anything. The plastic bag fell from my hands, and my skin felt free in the air. Rex followed me back inside the dark apartment. I removed his leash and hung it on the lopsided hook that I made for our seventh anniversary.

My phone chimed from the living room. Hesitant, I walked toward it. Hannah’s words glowed fresh on the screen: Here. I forgot to pick up a couple things. My heart dropped to the floor, replaced by angry heat. She’d made her choice. I snatched the bottle of rum, and leaned against the old floral couch. Fuck her.

Several minutes later, the front door opened—didn’t bother to knock, which still meant she had a key. “Just grabbing a few things,” she said. Rex greeted her, and she kneed him away from her. “Not now, Rex.” Her heels clicked on the hardwood floors.

I rolled my eyes. “I thought you were done with me.” Rex trotted up to me, licking my chin. “Who’s my good boy? Yes! You are,” I cooed to him. He panted a moment, then waggled off to chase her around.

“I am done with you,” she replied.

I chugged rum, imagined myself a pirate: an eye-patch, a parrot named Rex, and a long, black, scraggly beard. In that moment, I scratched my fictional beard and peered out of one eye. I put the bottle down. Hannah rustled in our—my—bedroom and I pictured her as she used to be: trying on dresses for me mornings before she went to work when we first moved in. Her laughter filling the bare space we had. Ours.

“Sorry,” she said from the doorway. “For dropping in like this.” A bag crinkled from her side.

I didn’t look up from stack of old newspapers on the coffee table. “Go away,” I said to the TV. “And leave your key. ”

She shifted her weight. I watched her muted reflection in the black screen. “Forget it. I’m not fighting.” She slammed the key on the entrance table.

The front door opened and shut, a goodbye whisper. I heard a muffled shriek a few moments later. I smiled, taking comfort from my own inability to deal with Rex’s mess earlier. Yes, Rex you are a good boy indeed.

“Enjoy what’s her name,” I called out.

My smiled faded. Lifting the bottle of rum up for another swig, I flipped the TV on. I wiped the rum off with the back of my hand. The edges of reality blurred and numbed. I ignored the flickering images on the TV. Voices and cheering crashing over me.

A blaze bubbled up from the pit of my stomach, racing with itchy fingers to my head. I threw the glass vase against the wall, watching the water drip off the cream-colored paint. Glass tinkled as pieces scattered across the floor, dancing with droplets. Chrysanthemums lay lifeless and cold, swimming in razor-edged shards and stale water: the last of Hannah’s touches.

My chest tightened. Did it all boil down to the same thing? Hannah: when we first met, when we moved in together, grinning. The day we brought Rex home. Then the fights. She drank excessively; I worked long hours. She wanted a family; I worried about my career. Late night drinking. How distant she felt. I tried satisfying her, but she sought out other women.

A clench at my waist doubled me over. Hot liquid trickled down my face, a burst dam of exquisite agony. Through my clouded vision something lumbered toward me. Rex’s hot breath tickled my cheeks and he licked the tears from my face. I clung to him like a drowning woman to a beam of wood.

Copyright 2020 Turner