Below my balcony a woman wearing a red shirt and jeans swings her pink and purple daughter through the gray air. I’m attracted to her from this distance (black-haired women unravel me), but I can’t see her features. As she pushes she keeps looking off to the left—quickly, sharply, unerringly—as if something important were going on over there, as if she were waiting for someone: a man, her husband, her lover. I judge her. She’s distracted and self-conscious. She’s vain. I begin to hate her. I wonder if she’s not a mother at all, if she’s an older, forced sister, or a paid nanny, someone who could so easily disregard a swinging child, this flying question mark, this being who hasn’t yet learned to kick, who is still dependent, needful. But then I remember Zak, and how you couldn’t get him off the playground (and why would a child want to leave a playground?), and I remember Diana’s comments about motherhood, the mind-numbing distractions, the stifling chores which must be suffered with interest. This poor woman pushes, sometimes hard, sometimes soft. I gauge her soul. Then she looks left. Again and again. Left. She folds her arms. Unfolds them. Folds them again. Maybe she needs to fold and unfold her arms. A habit. I know about habits, what it’s like not to know what to do with your arms. The storms are coming. I can see the wind whip her black hair, sexy across her forehead, but I can’t make out her features. I don’t know if she’s beautiful or not. Finally they stop, this woman and this girl. They walk left. I move my butt up and out of my chair a little, angle my body up and to the right, to see where they are going, and I see a dog, their dog, frenziedly wagging its tail, the dog that had been tied to the picnic bench, the dog that I couldn’t see, the reason for her looks, her concern, and now I want this woman, now I know she’s beautiful, now I want to give her a good, secret, stringless fuck, to thank her for those strong pushes, to reward her for loving her dog so.
Kevin Tosca’s stories have recently appeared in Wilderness House Literary Review and Fleeting. Others are forthcoming in Prick of the Spindle, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, The Smoking Poet and Umbrella Factory. He lives in France. Read more at http://www.kevintosca.com.