Sadness, the Adulterer by Jonathan Cardew

At 7:00pm, on the dot, the adulterer closes the boutique, locking the heavy wooden door and turning to face the snow. The street is quiet, blanketed—the cars all cocooned, sheathed in a thin white layer.

A distant alarm goes off, and the adulterer looks up to meet the eyes of a woman putting her key into the door of a Porsche.

She has the same drawn-down shoulders as him, the same inch of thickened air enveloping her body.

She pauses for an instant.

“Are you having trouble?” he asks, approaching her.

“It’s the bloody door,’ she says, jiggling the key. “Won’t catch.”

Her scent is a surprise—smoky almost, like she has been near an open fire.

Their eyes meet again.

“I’ll help you,” he says.

He takes the key from her: pushes it into the lock and turns the mechanism. The door clicks open, easily.

“There,” he says, handing it back.

When their fingers touch, he feels it. The same substance covers his own skin; the thickness, numbness of three long years. A coating.

She smiles.

“Silly me,” she says, holding the door open, and pausing.

When the adulterer reaches his car, he switches on the ignition. The radio blasts out a song, and he hits the on/off button to stop the noise. The car is encased by fuzzy snow; the windshield is obscured, as well as the side and rear windows. A streetlamp barely penetrates the snow, casting a strange orange-tinted light in the car.

The texture of this light is familiar to him. He knows it—like he knows certain notes in songs, like certain scents and odours drifting his way.

He keeps the car in neutral.

Jonathan Cardew’s writing appears or is forthcoming in Passages NorthSuperstition ReviewSmokelong QuarterlyJMWWPeople Holding, and Atticus Review, among others. He was a finalist in the Best Small Fictions 2016 and the Wigleaf Top 50 2017. He is the fiction editor for Connotation Press and contributing books reviewer for Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. Originally from the U.K., he lives now in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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