Bay Window

Written By: Rebecca S. Kightlinger

A red blur goes by, kicking up brown and orange and yellow leaves. It crests the hill then pulls over, and the blond from those perfume ads cuts the engine and closes her eyes. Inhales. Exhales, drawing it out. Then opens them. A hilltop farmhouse. Horses grazing behind white fences. Silos standing in threes like stacks of casino chips. She tilts the mirror to check her lipstick, then turns over the engine and guns it. Just another hundred miles.

More farms. Then, split-levels. Square two-stories. Then the road goes brick with wide, shady boulevards. Six blocks later, the boulevards disappear and so do the bricks, and the bay comes into view, gray-green, with all those freighters docked just beyond the railroad yard.

She slows, squints at the house numbers.

There. 41. Sagging porch. Windows dark. She pulls over, extends an arm, and smooths cashmere over solid gold. Picks up the lambskin purse with the clasp that opens quiet as the pope’s slippers. Steps out, one long leg at a time. Why’s she back here? She’s grown now, isn’t she? She’s got an updo, a purse full of cash, and a car that says I’ve left you all behind. And yet.

She walks down the cracked and canted sidewalk to the side of the house facing the bay. Above her head is her old bedroom window, but she doesn’t look up. Can’t look at those dingy white sheers. Those hazy, negligee curtains only a slut of a window would wear.

The front door opens and an old man in a thin undershirt sticks out a hand and lifts the mailbox hatch. Nothing there. The lid clanks shut, and he studies, but doesn’t know, the out-of-place woman with the out-of-state plates. He closes the door and she closes her eyes but can’t stop seeing him open his bathrobe. Can’t stop smelling that bottom-of-a-bird-cage stink of his private parts. Can’t stop feeling him force open her clamped-shut, four-year-old lips.

She fingers her purse, tracing the outline of her .38. Breathes in, breathes out, until the taste of him passes. Stands looking at that closed door and down that silent street until something tells her to leave. Just go. He’s probably taken down those whorehouse sheers. But just the same, don’t look up.

Rebecca S. Kightlinger

Rebecca Kightinger is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program.