Fiction by Stephen V. Ramey


 

I Sold You a Mattress

Artwork © Su Red

Artwork © Su Red

To: {redacted}
From: m4w
Subject: Your intoxicating presence

I sold you a mattress set last night. You were with your daughters and your father. I loved you the moment I saw those milk chocolate cheeks. You smiled and the wide-openness of your gaze drew me out of my funk. Your daughters were cute too. I have a son about your oldest’s age. I’m divorced. My wife has custody, but I’ll have him this weekend.
I wanted to ask you out, but with your father there it was too awkward. He won’t always be around, right? Do you live with him or something? Did your husband abandon you and the girls? Is that it? Did he die in Afghanistan? I’m sorry for your loss. I’ll never leave you. I’ll never die.
You said you would bring me a gift card today. For my service, my missing hand. I lost it in Iraq, not Afghanistan. I never knew your husband, if that’s your angle. No, no, no, you don’t have an angle, that’s just me being paranoid, like when I reported those locals putting something in our food. Spices, the corporal said. Do you think he was lying? You know how they are. I ate the stew. It tasted funny. Everything tasted funny after that, like blow-torched sand, like liberty.
I hope you come tomorrow. I hope you bring that card. I’ll spend it on coffee for you and your daughters. I can see the cream spinning down into that darkness, down and down until there’s no difference.
Yours,
m4
 
#
 
To: m4w
From: {redacted}
Subject: Re: Your Intoxicating Presence

Dear Michael,
How did you get this email address? I’m not mad at you, but this could represent a serious security breech.
I do remember you, Michael. You have beautiful eyes, a beautiful soft voice. I can only imagine what you must have been like before the war. I’m sorry if that’s cruel. It’s just that I hold such resentment on this issue. If we never sent another young man into that godless place, I would be happy.
But it is what it is, and we must live the life we have to its fullest potential. I sense that you were having a difficult day and that you have perhaps attached an emotional significance to me that I do not deserve. I was there with my family, Michael. That was not my father, but my husband, whom I love very much. You may have noticed those other men keeping their distance. They accompany us everywhere. They carry guns. You do not want their attention, Michael, which is why I ask you never to contact me at this email, except to tell me how you came by the address in the first place.
I will see that you receive the gift card I promised. Spend it on your son. I’m sure he loves you very much.
Your friend,
Michelle
 
#
 
To: {redacted}
From: m4w
Subject: Re: Re: Your intoxicating presence

Ah, sweet Michelle, thank you for your reply. Sometimes I think that no one hears when I speak, including God, especially god. Sometimes I think I’m alone in the world and love is a dream.
A man in sunglasses gave me the gift card this morning. His smile was like a sardine’s on thin-crust pizza. He said nothing, but he wanted to tackle me to the ground, wrap my arm into the small of my back and make me squeal. I think he loves you too, Michelle, and who can blame him?
Without you, the card is meaningless. I’ll use it for a bookmark. As for how I obtained your email, don’t you remember? You wrote it on my hand. I whispered in your ear and you wrote it in your lovely script. Your hair smelled like the ocean, so fresh. I wanted to run my hands through your hair, but your father was there. Will he always be there? Can’t we do something about that?
Yours,
m4
Ah, hell, Michael is my name (you have me)
 
#
 
To: m4w
From: {redacted}
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Your Intoxicating Presence

Michael,
I did no such thing. How did you get this email? This is important.
And that was NOT my father, but the President of the United States. YOUR president, Michael. Please respect that in any future correspondence.
Michelle
 
#
 
To: {redacted}
From: m4w
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your intoxicating presence

I’ve made you mad. I’m so sorry, Michelle. It’s the war. Iraq. I can’t keep the rage out of me, it’s like a wind blowing hot against my face, the smell of oil stinging my sinus cavities. We all have holes, Michelle, even you.
You did write on my hand. I put it under my pillow. I’ll never wear it again. It’s the altar I worship each morning, and the prayer I whisper every night.
We are meant to be. Are you beginning to understand?
Yours forever,
Michael
 
#
 
To: m4w
From: {redacted}
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your Intoxicating Presence

My husband saw your emails, Michael. I assume his Chief of Security brought them to his attention, but I don’t know for sure. It’s not like him to snoop, but he’s been acting strange lately. I think he noticed how I looked at you in the furniture store. Maybe he saw… that other thing. I still don’t remember writing on your hand, but you clearly have my email address and it came from SOMEWHERE. I think the stress of these last seven years have gotten to us both. I only hope the girls will be okay.
They’ll be coming for you now, Michael. Don’t fight them. Don’t resist. I’ll make sure you get help, the very best help available. This is not the end, but a new beginning.
M
 
#
 
To: {redacted}
From: m4w
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your intoxicating presence

They’re not coming, Michelle. Don’t you understand? Those men in your story weren’t there to protect you, but me. They watch over me. They’ll watch over you too, and the girls, if you’ll let them. Leave the rest of it behind. Don’t tell your father.
Yes, a new beginning. Come to me, Michelle. Will you do that? Will you let the rest go, and come to me? I owe you a coffee 
Always,
Michael
 
#
 
To: m4w
From: {redacted}
Subject: Yes

 

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in many places and he has edited three volumes of the respected Triangulation anthology from Parsec Ink. His first collection of (very) short fictions, Glass Animals (Pure Slush Books) is available wherever fine books are e-sold. Find him at http://www.stephenvramey.com

 

Su Red is an artist of various mediums, currently residing in the NYC area. You can see more of her work here.

 

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