by Ron Morita

Dick rubs his knuckles hard against the heel of his left hand. The musty darkness is pure evil, seeping into his soul. He presses his back against the wall and feels something brush his arm. A sleeve, soft and smooth. Like her. He remembers the freckled face smiling quizzically from across the dinner table and a delicious surge, so that he felt like a boy on Christmas morning eager to tear away the wrappings. He loved the voice. It was the words that he couldn’t stand.

The washing machine sounded funny. His shirt tail was out. One of the baskets wasn’t emptied that morning. All he wanted to do was count freckles, but the words pounded his head like the droning whir of the shop. The rage came out of the blue, as if a fiend seized control of his body. As he stared at his wife’s face, red from the nose down, a horrible feeling of regret choked him until he couldn’t breathe.

She is gone now—no one will tell him where—along with his Florida money that he worked for, bowed down for, so he could have a place when he was too old to work the lathe. He remembers the lawyer with the frizzy reddish-brown hair and grinds his knuckles against the heel of his hand. He can’t believe that all those lies came out of such a little woman with a weird Italian name. The air of the closet is warm, and droplets of sweat tickle his forehead like the itches he couldn’t scratch because his hands were peppered with the gray metallic dust that covered everything. His feet hurt as they did at the end of the day, especially the overtime days, his body sweating in the summer because the shop had no air conditioning, so that the front of his shirt was dark. The filth, the stinking filth soaked into him, thinking of his wife who is gone and his place that he would get with the Florida money, where he could sit on the porch sipping beer from an ice-cold keg, his own personal keg. Man, he can use one now.

There is a click, followed by the light footsteps he remembers from the courtroom, pacing back and forth between the table with the neat stack of papers and the fat man in black who sat behind a wooden wall. He looked bored, as if he were playing with himself, the way Dick wanted to so many times, only he couldn’t because his hands were covered in grime. It would infect him, destroy what was most precious to him, which he hid from the guys, using his huge body to shield it at the urinals. They were always laughing and teasing, making jokes he didn’t understand. Every night he dreamed of reducing them to bloody hamburger.

His heart hammers as a thin line shines above the coat hangers. Rhythmic tapping draws near. Dick presses his fist against his chest and smiles.

Ron Morita studied neurophysiology at UCLA’s Brain Research Institute because so much of what we consider ourselves to be is in the brain. Finding himself unsuited to academia, he earned a Masters in biomedical engineering from Case Western Reserve and became an electrical engineer. His fiction appeared in Cigale Literary Magazine, Penduline Literary Magazine and The Chamber Four Literary Magazine. It is forthcoming in Star 82 Review and Sassafras Literary Magazine. Ron has four unpublished novels.