In the morning Eileen plays her late father’s piano, an improvisation in A-minor: the chord followed by a cluster of cascading notes, half a line of not-quite harmony. In her mind she plays like her dad’s old dream for her—left hand of Bill Evans, right hand of Ahmad Jamal. “Let me play like Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal with my right hand,” Miles Davis said, “and I won’t need my left.” Through the window objects around the yard spin into patterns as she notices them: chives, pine stumps, violets. On her way out she sees her mother’s note on the counter. “Hey Kid thanks for taking care of the recycling. Here’s some more markets for your piece on the Giants of Jazz!”
At the transfer station the attendant listens to classic rock. He’s hanging out under the awning behind the recycling bins—a stooped guy with thick glasses and a drooping moustache.
He comes over to help when Eileen opens her trunk.
“Day off?” He takes a bag in each hand and stands there.
She looks around. “Do I know you?”
“I’ve seen you with the Limlaw Construction kid, right? Dancing at Damion’s.”
He leans toward her. “Dancing up a storm.”
He watches as she gets back in her car—his mind filled, it has to be, with visions of New Eileen, dancing drunk, ginger curls flying, whirling herself faster and faster as if into a flame.
There are many ways to Dolores Pond, dirt roads to coves and clearings where teenagers probably still drink and have sex while their parents think they’re somewhere else. Not that Eileen knows about any of it firsthand: in high school she only got a peek at cute boys over the tops of books no one else would’ve been caught dead reading. She shared a poem with Claire Holsapple, with Jess Baker, found her words once torn to bits in the girls’ room toilet.
“Don’t worry about them,” her mother told her. “When you finally blossom they’ll be the sorry ones.”
Along the north end of the pond several streams flow in. Beside one of these Eileen spreads her towel on a wedge of sand and picks through her reading material, still her high school favorites: Moore, Williams, Plath, Dickinson.
She bites into her turkey sandwich and lifts a book, looking over the top of the page at a leaf floating underside-up, a twisted stick chasing it downstream. She considers a verse containing chives and violets, a girl biting the blossoms off clumps of clover; a smear of dried lube on a nightstand, blood speckles on a purple pillowcase.
Back at the pull-off where her car is parked Eileen thinks she sees a Limlaw Construction truck approaching. She drops her bag and runs toward the road, waving with both hands as the truck passes and takes a hard left toward the interstate.
“Forgive me if I don’t have the words,” Ella Fitzgerald said. “Maybe I can sing it and you’ll understand.”
Eileen met Tommy Limlaw at Damion’s Bar & Grill. She was drunk when the place burst into a line dance and a dark, wiry guy two-stepped up to her in a dented cowboy hat and pulled her by the wrist onto the floor. Maybe it was only because she’d chased Gray Goose with chardonnay—but so it was that she became her new self. She swiveled her hips and thrust her crotch into his; she took his face in her hands and bit his nose.
They had sex that night in his King Cab on a Willow Road pull-off. She sucked his neck, licked his nipples, let a silvery Gray Goose breeze float her. On their third or fourth night together he knelt over her after she climaxed and said, “You haven’t done this much, have you.”
“How would you know?”
He reached for a cigarette. “Just your reactions.”
Her shorts are still damp now as she drives to his place; stray curls hang in her face; she has sand in her socks. Inside his trailer she pours a glass of wine and brings it to the bathroom where she takes a long shower. After she towels off she spritzes herself with perfume, slips into a nightgown she pulls out of her overnight bag and climbs into bed. She opens Spotify on her phone, finds Ella scatting over a nimble piano trio, so light, so free.
Her phone buzzes as she stretches out under the sheet.
“Tommy… I’m here. I’m drinking that wine you left.”
“That’s all right.”
“It’s good. Nice choice.”
“I won’t be making it though.”
In the background there’s laughter, clinking glasses, a woman’s loud drunken voice. “But my ass is TOO BIG for these shorts!”
“Maybe next weekend. You can hang out there if you want.”
“Finish off the bottle.”
She hangs up and lies back in bed, pouring herself the rest of the wine. When she finishes she gets dressed, washes her glass in the kitchen, heads out to her car with a jacket over her nightgown and her dirty clothes in the overnight bag.
It’s dusk. Shadows cover the yard and the half-fallen sheds where Tommy keeps his lawn mower and ATVs. She backs around carefully, her head swimming. When she wipes off her lipstick with the back of her hand, a book falls out of her bag into her lap and she knocks it on the floor. A line comes into her head then, sinuous and slippery, something not yet resolved. She doesn’t try to squeeze the words into shape. As she follows the narrow road through the darkness she lets the words, a secret of her own, dance behind her eyes.
TIMOTHY BOUDREAU lives and works in northern New Hampshire. His collection Saturday Night and other Short Stories is available through Hobblebush Books. His recent work has been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Microfiction and a Pushcart Prize. Find him on Twitter at @tcboudreau or at timothyboudreau.com.