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Trying

 

by

Miriam N. Kotzin and Bill Turner



Ellen peers through the screen door. Summer is scorching this year. The heat radiates from the pavement only twenty feet from her front door. Mike fidgets with the weed trimmer while sipping from the iced tea that she gave him.

His Hawaiian shirt is slung over the back of one of the white wrought iron chairs in the back yard, and he’s working in his cut-offs.

The iced tea had been sitting on the steps, and Ellen could see that the ice had all melted. She’d thought about bringing a fresh glass and decided against it.

"This is good tea," he shouts over his shoulder as he adjusts the line on the trimmer. He doesn’t look back. She watches his every move.

"Thank you," she says. She speaks softly. It gives her control, makes him have to ask what she has said. He doesn’t ask. That is the problem lately. He may no longer care.

Ellen thinks, as she watches him sweat in the sun. He should have had done this earlier.

With the door open she hears the music from their neighbor’s yard. Ilona’s weeding her flowerbed; listening to jazz on her portable radio. Ilona wears her bikini to garden. She’s said she might as well get some use out of it now that she never goes to the beach. Ellen thinks Ilona gets lots of use out of it.

They all have sex together at least twice a week.

Mike made the suggestion back in February. He wanted to spice up their love lives. Adding Ilona to the mix was his idea. Ellen shook and cried the first time, causing them to have to stop. Mike tried things that she hated for the next three nights, told her to loosen up and learn to enjoy them.

She would have left him, but she imagined explaining why she wanted the divorce. She imagined everybody whispering about her. She couldn’t bear the thought of the public humiliation when everyone thought she had a perfect marriage, a perfect husband, that she was a perfect wife.

So she feigned comfort. As time passed, she was able to pretend that Mike and Ilona’s intimacy didn’t bother her. Ilona would try anything once and Mike was happy to oblige most requests. They would both push Ellen, demand that she try them too.

"Are you going to trim the sides of the house today?" she asks. Her voice is barely above a whisper. She knows that he heard her. Mike doesn’t answer.

She watches Ilona deadhead the petunias and the marigolds. Soon she’ll come into their yard, and stand next to Mike while he squats with the weed whacker. He’ll look up at her perfectly tanned body, and finish up by staring at the plump yellow Lurex triangle.

Ellen hates the way Mike licks Ilona with his eyes. She can see Ilona
responding to him. She feels a tinge, a hint of jealousy, as though Ilona is Ellen’s secret. She latches and unlatches the screen door as she watches, leaving marks from the latch in her skin.

Ilona laughs, open-mouthed. She has one gold tooth that gleams in the sun. Often she laughs like that while they are together, as though coming were a wonderful joke. Even alone with Ilona, Ellen doesn’t get it. She steps back, into the cool, dark house.