Strange, Familiar Face || Ryan Curcio

Sandra’s ember-specked face fixed itself on the diminishing fire. She twitched every time a coal would crack, but still moved her lawn chair closer to the waning flames. Her husband wobbled, unsteady from excessive whiskey, out from the shed’s small darkness, embracing five thick black sequoia logs.

“Do you think we ought to throw more on, Steven?” asked Sandra, eyeing him with close attention, making sure he didn’t trip over any of the empty paint cans surrounding the fire pit. Steven did not set the logs down, but instead thrust them all onto the perishing fire, with his gut distended; all of the logs fell into a disorganized clump on the faintly glowing bed of coals.

“Do you think we ought to throw more on? Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah! Shut up, will you cunt? You don’t have to be out here. I’m gonna get more load-ed, and keep feeding this puppy. You’re welcome to leave whenever.” Steven belched a low-toned vibrato into the smoke-churned air.

“I don’t trust you being out here all alone with a roaring fire in the condi-tion you’re in,” said Sandra peremptorily. She looked at the ground, petrified.

“Look me in the fucking eye when you speak to me! Cowards talk with their eyes in the dirt. Think I’m drunk now, just wait.”

He sat down like a shot put in reverse, staring as if to insist her eyes coerce to his stare. He reached for his half empty bottle of bourbon, dipping the neck low into his Solo cup, and filled it near the top, a couple drops of the hooch jumping from the lip of the cup. Almost gone.

They sat in unmoved silence for an hour. Steven nodded off a few times, but awoke each time he sensed Sandra was going to turn the spigot over and spray the fire out. Several times, she considered moving inside. ‘I should just let him sleep it off. There’s no talking to him in this state,’ she thought. She finally stood up in protest. “Steven, you’re half asleep. Let’s put this thing out and call it a night. You’re obviously exhausted and blotto. It’s done. We’re done here. Night’s over.”

“Oh, buh baby, we jus gin startled. Nice jus gun rully.” He pushed himself out of his chair, gripped the arms with whitened knuckles, staggered over to the tool shed, and shifted things around in the tiny, storage space.

Sandra looked on with mouth agape, as she considered what his poisoned mind was seeking. When he returned, his features became funhouse-like and exaggerated in appearance. His eyebrows formed a V and his mouth creeped into a U; clownish, vaudevillian.

“Steven, please. Whatever you’re up to, just stop. No, put that away, Steven!”

***

“Now we done. Now we done.” Sandra’s shrieks turned houselights on from all around the next two blocks. Dogs howled songs of pity and confusion. Wandering raccoons and skunks fled the general premises.

The gasoline tank loosely dangled from Steven’s thumb, pointer, and mid-dle finger. He let it drop with a thud on the earth; residual drops soaked into the patchy chunks of crab grass.

The first Sandra stood behind her now.

The second Sandra stood with shiny, blood splotched flesh, the damages stretching from her hairline to her torso; the eyes too dried out from projectile flame to produce tears.

“Now we done,” Steven lisped, drool hanging like deep-cave stalactites from the corner of his mouth. “Now we done.”

This was originally published in Spring 2018 edition of The Helix.

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