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on squinted over his trembling hand maneuvering the crazy glue tube towards the splintered wood’s edge. He managed to apply a layer along the length without dripping on the table (he hadn’t bothered to lay newspaper), and the vinegar-like fumes made his brain tickle, the kitchen becoming an alluringly hazy dreamscape, a place that had never been. In lieu of a wood clamp, he affixed a rubber binder, wrapping one end around the top of the serifed ascender, the other taut over the tail. The letter was a J. Proudly Ron beheld his handiwork: the break was rejoined, the protrusions and recessions nestling like they had been before Ron’s heavy footfalls had shuddered the wall, sending the letter plummeting to the tile floor. The binder would hold; this was a successful project. In a few hours, he’d hang it back in place, leading locomotive to two others, and Irene would be off his case. He took a final sniff of glue, a bonus sniff, before replacing the cap and tossing the tube in the silverware drawer—not where glue belonged, but a convenient shelter. “Irene!” Ron called, getting up. “Reeny?” He found her in the living room, on the sofa chair with a book, knees together like two pale grapefruits. The incomplete OY above her looked like a cartoon character’s thoughts. Early on Irene had been like Bugs Bunny to Ron, lovably agitating. Otherwise devoted to the book, Irene lent her eyes to her beckoning husband. One hand held the trade paperback, thumb pressed astride the fold. She always read this way, leaving a hand free to clutch tea, twist hair, or roam idly over the upholstery’s sensual weft. “Success,” Ron said, standing before her. “What’s that?” 1

“That’s when you do something the right away or otherwise achieve a desired outcome.” Irene never flinched at Ron’s wisecracks. Usually she pitilessly parried; often she leap-frogged his cold witticism, outdoing him in meanness even without resorting to easy sarcasm. “Success—where’d you hear about that?” she said. “That’s rich. The glue is drying. It’ll be good as new.” “Mmm.” “Aren’t you pleased? Didn’t think I could fix even that, did you?” Irene turned a page. “Next time don’t get so huffy that you have to storm around like an elephant.” “Next time, don’t be so difficult that it makes a person irate.” “What person would that be, Ron?” The most painful thing to Ron was to not matter. Seeing she’d scored a hit, Irene retreated. “Anyway, I can’t make you anything.” Ron turned away and adjusted a decorative box on the mantle, shifting it just so. Out of the incense holder, a wooden sled with a trough down its length, he tipped beige ash into his opposite palm. With no notion why, he plucked the incense stick butt from the pinhole eye and wrote a firm line on his palm with the burnt end. Ron had been to art school many years ago and drawn with charcoals. But stupidly—he’d never forgiven himself for this—he’d neglected to spray sealant on the heavy papers. Those cans of Krylon fixative were expensive, he was a broke art student, all his money went to pints of lager and cigarettes, all his attention to fleeting inspired moments. At the end of the year, through packing and moving, he’d ruined the drawings, all his best still lifes, the scrawny man, the plump woman, sitting, laying, even the ones that had taught him—becoming a useless but pure mantra for existence—that every line is straight if you look close enough. There’s not a curve in the world, not even on a lathe-shaped piece of art fair junk like a wooden J. Ron never drew again. “What are you reading?” Ron said, his hand cupped like a communicant. Irene flashed the cover. He was prepared to answer “Hmm” or somesuch, and have it be the end of it, but with Irene’s gesture—she knew this—he had 2

to peer around her hideous bead-bedecked lampshade. “Slain Days,” he read, squinting. “Sounds cheerful.” “It won the Henning Prize,” Irene said, as if this fact was unknown only to half-witted degenerates. “Which is.” “Best Abuse Memoir. I guessyou’re not following my blog.” “Some of us work for a living.” “Is that what you call it?” “I don’t come up with what things are called, Irene. I just live here.” He returned to the kitchen and stared at the J, laying like a corpse drying under the rubber binder’s grasp. It would be hours before the glue set and Ron could hang it. Unless he took the binder off and hung it now. That would get a result, one that he could possibly abide.

Copyright © 2012 Benjamin Obler. You really shouldn’t find this anywhere other than