Fiction — August 22, 2016 10:28 — 2 Comments

For a Moment She Thought – Bill Cook

She warms a plate of food in the microwave atop her refrigerator. Afterwards, she smokes a cigarette in the chrome dinette chair and flips through the latest issue of Bust. She stops on the page with the fall clothing advertisements after finishing the article about divorce and dating and lust and sex. Last month, it was weight loss and related disorders like binge eating and anorexia and induced vomiting. Joan’s happy she’s only marginally overweight.

Though, she’s doing much better. For instance, on her days off she’ll meet Sonia for a jog and then afterwards they’ll make love or go and have a bagel and drink locally roasted coffee at the café. They’ll talk and laugh easily sometimes. This is good practice, Joan thinks. This is something she needs to learn so that she seems natural.

At the gallery, where she works, Caleb, the man Joan fucks on weekends when she’s unsure whether she wants to be alone is there when she arrives. He’s never weekdays; that’s Sonia’s. They each own their separate parts of her.

Joan turns, and he frowns in a way that makes it seem he’s happy she’s there….in this very art gallery, where she works.

“Well…what do you think,” Joan asks him this because she has to fill her mouth with something. Her hair is red-brown today like a perfectly cooked medium rare steak. John, her dead husband, she likes telling everyone,—loved steak. Also, he loved sailing, trail running, mountain biking, mountain climbing, slow nights and fire pits, walks along the beach.

To fend off the needy ones’—who dare broach babies or a future of sorts—she’ll slay them, ‘John, my dead husband, got run over by a crazed bus driver…smashed John and his shiny Audi into smithereens. Think about it. Seriously…John was the man, my mon amour! I’m telling you—I’m a fucking wreck!’

As Caleb leaves, he says to her like it’s not news—“You’re a fucking mess…you know that, Joan.”

“The line starts over there,” she says and shrugs.


At the café, the next morning Joan decides she has to end it. And in ending it, she means everything. Sonia is late, and Joan goes and uses the ladies room and that’s when she gets the call. Its Sonia’s brother who hates Joan because she’s a she. “Sonia died last night bitch! Of a goddamn heart attack. She was alone, in her luxury apartment, without you!”

“Everyone’s right about something,” Joan says as if Diego’s not listening because really, right now, he can’t really be an asshole. Then she hangs up.


For the longest time, Joan walks blocks around the city, searching aimlessly for streets that have lost their way. With names like You Once Lived Here and You Remember When or The Very First Time I Saw You and then finally Shit, Goddammit, This Life Fucking Sucks!

At daybreak, with days passing and the minutes and hours have become meaningless Joan steps out into the sunlight. A city bus with a bright banner of an overly gleeful model splashes past. Joan flings her cup at the fucking bus, rushes down the grimy steps into the dark subway tunnel, escaping.

She stops and inhales the past lives around her. Stumbles towards the kiosk and has her ticket stamped.

In the disquieted mob awaits a tall girl who smells like semen and vanilla and smoked meat, poses in front of Joan with skinny calves sticking out below her ill-thought cotton printed dress. She seems offish, weakly, self-absorbed. There’s something about her that attracts Joan, warm bile rises in her throat like a knife.

Joan imagines thrusting the girl face first onto the electrified subway tracks. She’s feeling numb and pissed-off about Sonia, John, and wants Caleb to fucking get lost.

She’s shivering now. It’s taking too long. Now she imagines it’s her being drug and torn into a million shitty pieces under the dusty subway train as it squeals to a stop in front of the tall girl.

As they huddle towards the door the thin pretty girl turns towards her. She says, “You and I—we might’ve been great lovers,” and Joan’s hand grazes the girls buoyant soft breast, the friction of her nipple shuddering like bodies twined in sunlight and bedsheets.

“I’m not the one who saves,” Joan says, in parting.


Bill Cook resides in a small community within the Sierra Pelona Mountain Range. He has work published in Juked, elimae, Tin Postcard Review, Right Hand Pointing, The Summerset Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, and in Dzanc's anthology Best of the Web 2009 and upcoming in the New Flash Fiction Review & Dime Show Review.


  1. arla jackson says:

    good morning,
    One of my favorites…..seems like an overdose of stimuli in this modern world with no real meaning…..
    Sexual choices abound with no foundation or direction…..So much available with so little return.
    When in fact its not out there in the world from other people… comes from within, self awareness….
    facing reality, freeing oneself of expectations and just letting things be……
    Good writing Bill,

  2. Bill Cook says:

    Good evening,

    Arla. You keenly pointed elements of my story I hand’t thought of. Love your perspective…very invigorating to see what you took from it. overdose of stimuli….sexual choices abound…directionless…and ultimately looking for connection, looking for love or maybe not. Who can say?

    Thank you for thoughtful critique.


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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney