Lonelihood by Todd Clay Stuart

She had disco in her hips and wants to dance. Tells me her name is Sheila, but wishes it were Flannery. Naturally, I assume she’s a writer. “No, I sell shit on eBay for people,” she says.

Two Mojitos later, she tells me that back at her place, she has a Cheeto that looks like Marlon Brando.

Streetcar Brando or Godfather Brando?” I ask.

“More like Superman: The Movie Brando,” she says.

“Let’s go.”

We leave together hoping that two people are half as lonely as one.

***

Sheila takes me home in a Hummer she’s selling for some tweaker who’s facing serious jail time. The night is dark and the streets are empty. We pull into her garage, and I hear this awful metallic scraping sound.

“This thing’s a bitch to park,” she says.

I want to ask if she’s ever been in love, but I ask if her insurance is paid up instead.

***

In her living room, Cheeto Brando glows orange under a small glass dome. She’s asking eight hundred dollars for it.

“People really collect Cheetos?”I ask.

“Oh yeah, it’s a whole thing,” she says.

Her entire house is an eclectic menagerie of stuff she sells for people on eBay. Everything has a price tag. Basquiat paintings with sketchy provenance, a copy (original?) of Kurt Cobain’s death certificate. A first edition of The Bell Jar. She hands it to me. There’s an inscription inside: For Hilda + Vicky with lots of love from Sylvia January 1, 1961.

I trace my finger lightly over the handwriting and lose sense of where I’m at.

***

“Do you want to sit down?” Sheila asks.

The couch has a plastic slipcover. She kisses me. Starts to unbutton her sweater.

“Do you mind if I take this off? I’m shipping it to a woman in Schenectady tomorrow.”

***

She leads me to her bedroom. In the dim light, there’s a set of drums she’s selling for her cousin and a bare mattress on the floor. That’s it. There’s no room for anything else, except for the moonlight, and two thin lengths of loneliness.


Todd Clay Stuart is an emerging American writer and poet from the Midwest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, FRiGG, Milk Candy Review, New World Writing, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife, daughter, and two loyal but increasingly untrustworthy pets. Find him on Twitter @toddclaystuart and at http://toddclaystuart.com.

Photography by Dustin Tramel (@dustintramel)