He reads: A glass of orange juice after a glass of water, hospital ice, peas, two (only two) green olives, Polish vodka chilled in the freezer.
We are playing a game for adults with our maybe-friends who live in the planned community two-hundred yards from the sunken curve of our backyard. We own the renovated farmhouse. Outside, our Norwegian dogs stretch the long tendons of their rabbit-like hind legs. From our back porch, shaded and silent save the slow scooping of ceiling fan against August air, we can see the interstate run its horizontal line towards West Virginia. Twenty miles in the distance, it forks away, dips low into a coal-gutted town near the Ohio River.
These maybe-friends, six in total, own homes with alternating shutter colors. Navy, tan, red. But with names like Oxford Glacier and Tawny Hide and Midnight Vermillion. They selected them from decks of alternating shades at the home design studio. They repave their driveways every five years, build thick brick and slatestone mailboxes. Hang wreaths that change with the seasons.
For this round of the game—for the list that has just been announced—we were told to write down five things we like to consume. We were welcome, the instructions said, to get naughty.
We take turns guessing who owns each list. Nearly everyone’s list contains booze. Someone wrote nipple. We discuss the word consume. What does it mean, exactly? Someone mentions the Oxford English Dictionary. We think we’re smart. Their kids will go to college. We don’t have any kids, just the dogs.
Orange juice. Olives. Vodka. I look at my husband. He does not like olives. He eats them in salads I make to accompany our dinners on most nights. But he does not stand in the kitchen like I do, plucking them out of the jar with my fingers. And, peas? No. He orders Manhattans when we go out, likes bourbon and not vodka.
But, Amanda—Amanda with autumn tones burnt into her hair, a soft gloss over the strands, a chemical resuscitation of the follicles she purchases for an additional $45 (she’s offered me a referral to the salon; suggested I try the treatment); Amanda with her hard little knuckles and slim fingers and real gold chains doubled up and crossed and doubled again high and low on her neck—she guesses Adam right away.
Yes, my husband exclaims.
I have a sad score, second to last. We pause to refill drinks. Adam turns on the television mounted high in the corner of this room the other women call a Florida room, but I call a covered porch. Someone changes the channel to a baseball game. I call the dogs inside with me for water, for rest.
When I return, I think about how this summer, our second summer here, the wood surrounding our exterior doors hasn’t bloated so that every open and close necessitates a slamming that echoes throughout the house.
At night, sometimes, I hear the bending of grass blades beneath feet through the window of the guest room where I often sleep because Adam snores.
Out in the direction of the interstate, we have an additional detached garage, four stalls. A workshop where Adam plans to start wood working. Maybe, he tells me at dinner, he’ll take up blacksmithing, too. Inside the fourth stall is an old plaid couch my mother gave me when she redesigned her living room. And a lamp I’ve had since college.
Most nights when I hear the bending grass, I wait. I go to the bathroom and drink water over the sink. Before I shut out the lights, before I climb back into the twin day bed with its brassy frame, I peel the blinds apart and see that fourth stall shining at me, a rupturing of light.
Suzanne Grove is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and received the J. Stanton Carson Grant for Excellence in Writing while studying at Robert Morris University. Her poetry and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in The Adirondack Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Penn Review, Porter House Review, The Raleigh Review, and elsewhere. She received honorable mention in Farrar, Straus, & Giroux’s June contest for her short fiction piece “Shift Work” and was recently a finalist for the SmokeLong Quarterly flash fiction fellowship. She currently serves as the short fiction editor for CRAFT literary magazine.