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
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.