Business As Usual by Everett Warner

Quin Stevenson

She drifts through her eyes and her eyes drift through the window. It’s the summer solstice. The horizon is pulled taut as a garrote. The sunny-side down sun traps the neighbor’s Spanish moss in an amber haze. She finds her hand on the window and laughs a little as she takes it off. On the redwood dresser, she slides a line in the thin dust with her finger, thinking of notes on fogged glass. She brushes the pistol, her fingers leaving its edge to end at the bottle of sleeping pills. She lines up the arrows, flips the lid with her thumb, and tips two into her hand. They don’t go down easily, and the tightness in her throat calls her to the kitchen for water.

Dry swallowing, eyebrows furrowing with strain, she crosses the creaky hardwood hallway to the sink and sips palm-fulls of water–the taste of alkali streaked on her tongue. She butters a slice of honey wheat, takes bites as she makes sure each door and window is locked; and makes her way back across the hall, floorboards loudly woken. For a second she thinks about crumbs, and flicks off the picture frame still on the wall.

The sun’s penultimate ray melts the amber evening to dusk, tree, sky, and earth one umbral line seeping through the window to the edge of the bed. She steps through the shadow into the lesser dark and lays her head on stiff, embroidered pillows.

A suited man with a silver briefcase stands at the foot of her bed, looking at the wall. He stands for a long time, makes a phone call with low, minimal sounds and stares out of the window. He is motionless in the lunar slant for another length of time. He turns around and exits the room. The floorboards groan from their slumber. She hears the front door latch and relock.

She gets up groggily and looks out the window. It’s not a dream. She grabs the pistol, still watching. There is a man in a black suit with black gloves standing in the backyard facing east. The man with the briefcase approaches from the other side of the yard, facing west. The black line of the tree cuts the yard into two sides. They both look up to the window, and a gush of air rushes upward into her ribcage. The suited man looks to the edge of the lawn and walk out of view of the window, towards the tree. Her hand is white around the pistol. She puts it down and checks the locks again. The den window is unlatched from the inside. She locks it, then unlocks it, and locks it again, shaking her head.

She takes a long shower, and pauses with her hands in her hair as she thinks about a movie. She takes another sip of the wine bottle and stands until the mirror is fogged over before sleeping with all of the lights on.

The next morning she calls her son, smiling more than usual during the call. She had woken up early and cooked a large breakfast. She had gotten the locks changed, and offered some of the extra eggs to the locksmith. He had politely declined, but she insisted and they had a nice talk about everything but her security concerns.

She unlocks and relocks the door three times before heading to work early. She thinks about maybe getting a briefcase, and the trees on either side of the street lean in a little to listen.

Everett Warner spends his time trying to be a wolf. He edits fiction for Noble/Gas Qrtly, and his words can be found at Rust + Moth, The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, and other places. He thinks everything should be blue, and can be found on Twitter @danielwolfer.