I sleep under Becca’s shotgun house with the possums. Last night a baby hung from a joist by its tail and watched me until the mama came over and hissed.
Her slippers whisper and rasp overhead as she hums “All You Need Is Love.”
She screws the rent-a-cop twice a week until he snores like a dragster. A real cop would know I was under the house on a tarp, mosquito netting draped from planter hooks, a duffle bag of clothes for a pillow.
I squirm out after she leaves for work and dust myself off. I snatch the key from the rock and shower, careful to dry and fold the towel afterward. Becca never suspects. The thing about growing up so nearsighted, she once explained, is you miss the details.
I watch steam peel off her bathroom mirror and decide this is the day. Time to win her back.
Becca said no one person could be everything to another person and dumped me. This meant I needed friends.
She makes friends flying kites. The day we met I tracked her Chinese dragon for a mile, following the string to her fingers. Kites are better than dogs this way.
I walk to Crescent Park to fly Becca’s Hello Kitty kite. The string tugs, I let some line go. The white kitty flaps high in the breeze over the Mississippi River. It snakes and dives and comes back taut.
A bike gang in spandex and helmets zips through, rushing at me, everybody sleeked like Tour de France.
“Hey!” I say. “Got a kite over here!”
I drop the spool to duck. Gears click. Wind whips. People ride away, talking in German.
The kite string falls in the river. I can frame the rent-a-cop, hang some string from the trunk of his Python Security patrol car.
Hello Kitty unspools into the sky, another white thing in the clouds over Algiers.
I’ve stared at the bent nails coming through her floorboards, remembering the greatest moment of my life. She took me skiing in Colorado. I’d never seen snow, yet mountains of it rose around us like molars of some stone god.
I took ski school with knee-high kids who daredeviled past, so bright and chatterful, so low to the ground it didn’t hurt if they fell.
We rode the lift in the afternoon, wind stinging our cheeks. Held hands the whole way over the tree tops and swishing skiers. She took me to a double-black-diamond slope where the mountain steeped. I couldn’t see what happened after.
“This is the best way to learn.” She launched off with her ski poles, swashbuckled through the humps.
I headlonged down the mountain, hit those lumps and lost my skis, my gloves, my hat, my mask. It took forever to get it back on, but I hurtled again and again, ice in my bib, and exploded across the slope, retrieving things as cursing people whizzed by, grateful for every moment of flailing and falling and failing.
Becca waited at the bottom, calm and still.
Icicles hung in my beard. Instead of pulling and ripping my hairs like I would’ve, she sucked each one, melting it in her mouth.
The rent-a-cop wears his Kevlar vest like Becca is dangerous. I imagine him taking it off in her bedroom like a gladiator, her glasses steaming up.
I have this dream where we fly over the rice patties and refineries of Louisiana. We leap out with skydiving instructors strapped to our backs. They spread-eagle us close. I reveal the ring box strapped to my wrist like a detonator. I scream over the wind, “Will you marry me!” Becca’s cheeks flap as she screams back “Yessir!” And later, we make love among the parachutes.
The possums and I have heard the rent-a-cop ask Becca if she uses his toothbrush for anything strange. He shaves his head like he’s given up. He talks like he’s swallowed the TV, says, “These low-info voters just don’t get it!”
Becca can’t love him. Without her glasses, she can’t even see him.
Lasagna proves I can take initiative. It shows I’m capable of change.
I’ve never made lasagna, though I’ve done stints on the Waffle House line. I don’t care about burns or sniffy managers or the people who blitz in at three a.m. and never stop laughing.
I panhandle tourists so I can shop at the hippie store for flat noodles and crushed tomatoes Becca doesn’t have in her pantry. Then I find the colander, the wooden spoon, the stock pot, the Pyrex dish at her place. I follow the noodle box recipe and slide everything in the oven. I set the table and light jar candles. The place smells like sandalwood and tomato sauce.
Through the foggy door cubes, Becca’s car blurs up. She’s early, but I’m already wearing her pink robe that swishes sexily against my thighs.
When the door opens, the rent-a-cop is in civilian clothes, cradling a begonia. He drops the plant and runs out screaming.
I kick aside terra cotta shards and go out on the stoop.
A smiling woman jogs by. A neighbor waxes his car. Possums revel in the trash.
But the rent-a-cop leaves for good. He scrapes out of the driveway and revs off like somebody turning around at the wrong house.
Tonight I’ll propose to Becca with the ring of chicken-wire and blue broken glass I made. I’ll present our lasagna. We’ll sleep in the queen bed.
Max Hipp is a writer and musician from Oxford, MS. His stories appear in Cheap Pop, SmokeLong Quarterly, Black Warrior Review, and other fine journals. His flash fiction is included in Wigleaf’s Top 50 for 2022, and he’s working on a novel and a story collection.
image: MM Kaufman