She started to walk … to catch the bus … reached into her coat pocket for her purse and found the sandwich half. She took it out … to drop … into the street, but instead she put it back into her pocket.
—J. D. Salinger
He is indulgent. Hungry. Hungry for her. He slurps his drink and wolfs part of his sandwich. They both had ordered chicken salad on wheat toast.
She is pleasant, yet reserved. The sun shines off her hair as if it were gold-spun, but the stars in her eyes are vanishing—last night’s tryst fading with them.
Her room key lies on the café table.
She tries hard not to clench her hands around the sandwich, harder yet to squeeze the sharp words from coming out of her mouth lest they cut through her heart. She would rather swallow them. She loved him… at least for a while. She sips the ice-cold water before saying anything, as if that could quench their heat or dull their sharpness, but her words sear and jab anyway. She twirls her wedding ring as if that could wipe away the tarnish. This is not the way she intended to end the affair.
He had planned to spend the day with her at the beach—he, freed from the constant pressure at the university, the politics and endless paper to grade; she, relieved from her prim and proper airs at the church office. After her less than holy words, he glares at her for the longest time, but his own words still catch in his throat. He glances at the bowls of fruit on the table—the blueberries, the way they fall on the moist cantaloupe; the green grapes and sour cherries; the strawberries glistening on slices of mango and banana. Then he cranes his neck back up to her. “Fish,” he finally says. His lips stop at that utterance, but his eyes keep speaking. A long moment later, he finishes his comment while cocking his head. “Don’t let them bite you.” He swigs the rest of his rum and coke, slams the glass down on the table, but leaves his napkin neatly folded, just as his parting words leave his lips pursed. Her glass still rocks—water tossing as the surf with the ice cubes still jostling—as he walks away.
She simply stares at his half-eaten chicken sandwich, plate pushed aside; chips falling as they may.
John C. Mannone has over 400 works appearing in venues such as Artemis, The Southern Poetry Anthology (NC), Still: The Journal, Town Creek Poetry, Negative Capability, Tupelo Press, The Baltimore Review, The Pedestal, and others. He has two poetry collections: the dark literary Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing) and the 2013 Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Prize quarter finalist on disability poetry, Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wing’s Press) is forthcoming. He won the the 2015 Joy Margrave Award for creative nonfiction and served as the 2013 Rhysling Poetry Chair. He is the poetry editor for Silver Blade and for the 2015 Hugo-nominated magazine, Abyss & Apex. His work has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry. He is a professor of physics in east TN. Visit The Art of Poetry: http://jcmannone.wordpress.com