Four nights straight the stranger sits in her section paying for cans of Pabst from a pile of tens. Friday night, they park at the reservoir and pass a silver flask, make bets on what’s Mars or stars. Next morning, he’s long gone, along with her purse full of tips and a new pair of panty hose.
No to the mug shots, not him or him. She bets Vegas or maybe Miami, a yacht at sunset. He’s all about the full moon, a fat yellow lollypop, enough howl to last a lifetime. Every damn dog will answer to his name.
Always November in these drawings. Always trees with no leaves, a row of stick figures, a father/mother/brother/dog lined up and smiling along an imaginary sidewalk bordered by imaginary daisies. Always a curl of smoke from the chimney of the imaginary fireplace where your mother left you alone with Ed or Ralph or Ben or any of the many men she asked you to call uncle even as you imagined the stray spark that would leap and catch and burn down the house and the yard and the whole goddamned world.
But where are the windows, your therapist says? The door?
3: Understand, Too, Why I Purr in My Sleep
Your daddy was an alley cat, my mother used to say. The story she’d get around to telling me when the ice in her glass paled the whiskey she was drinking. When the sun was long gone, when a swaddle of moths made a speckled mess of the porch light. Instead of a story, she blew smoke rings, perfect little wreaths that I’d shred with a finger.
In her silence, I heard how, when spring yowled, my father had to chase the feral air.
Understand that this is why I chin you all over until I make you my smell.
Sarah Freligh is the author of Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize and the 2015 Whirling Prize from the University of Indianapolis. Recent work has appeared in Cincinnati Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, and in the anthology New Microfiction: Exceptionally Short Stories (W.W. Norton, 2018). Among her awards are a 2009 poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation in 2006.