#218 Shape Shift

by Jodi Paloni

A father had three daughters and a wife. After work, he would watch the children romp on the swing set from inside as he listened to his wife. She would slice fat off steak or pinch hard tips from beans. He imagined the children had seen his car, how they’d feel safe as they posed in freeze-tag statues.

When his oldest turned fifteen, she invited a friend to sleep over. During the night, the friend slipped downstairs for a glass of milk and found the father staring out into the yard. He told her he enjoyed the way the swing set drew shadows on the lawn. He invited the girl to sit and share in the beauty. He tried to ignore how her tank top drooped perilously across burgeoning flesh, a partially open tent in an oasis, and how her lips swelled into blossoms from trying on various lipsticks earlier, his wife’s cosmetics.

He talked of choices. He had always wanted to travel the dessert, any place that opened to horizons. The girl’s hand traveled up and down her thigh in sleepy comfortable strokes.

When his roused wife entered the kitchen, she witnessed this ease between them. He could not sway his wife’s decision.

Now the man stood wearing boxers in a motel room. He rubbed his face and closed heavy polyester curtains against the view: cars lining the lot, a picnic table grounded in cement. He fell asleep like a dog and woke in the body of an eagle.

7 comments:

Frances said...

Gorgeous and haunting.

Dino Parenti said...

Somehow you made the creep factor elegant. Really nice work.

Amber said...

I appreciated the voice of reflection being expressed here, and I think elegant is a good way to describe it. I did feel however, that there was an inconsistency of active vs. passive expression, which was somewhat distracting from the rhythm, and that the piece would benefit from some proofreading.

Jodi said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Amber, I agree. You are right.

Shona Snowden said...

Sad, but powerful.

Jodi said...

I think the compatible past tense version is working better. Thanks, again, Amber.

Darrelyn Saloom said...

Your imagery pulled me right into the story: the wife's cooking, the swing set drawing shadows, the haunting scene with the young girl in the kitchen, and the curtains in the hotel room took me there. The last line is masterful. Great job!