By A.M. Gwynn
Pavlov would soon be home. He liked things to be left as he had left them. He liked her to be as he had left her, too. Everything had its place and purpose. No one understood as much as she did. Pavlov needed her. When the shadow pressed its red mouth to his ear, pounded behind his eyes, he would need her.
The screen door slammed, and the tiny house sobbed in protest. The northern oak creaked heavily under threat of his measured steps, each one loaded, landing with intent and purpose. Pausing at the door jamb, he looked at her with the shadow, sniffing the air for what was wrong, whether anything was out of its place, voiding its purpose.
She sat at the table where he’d left her, her hands folded neatly on the table. A dirt-glob from the garden tattled from under her thumbnail and it gleamed in the corner of his eye. He should have been tired, but he was strong.
Before she parted her lips to smile, he reached out and pulled at her seams until her insides and the letters of his name spilled out onto the linoleum. She curled into him like a lazy cat that lets someone pull their tail without a glare or scratch.
Pavlov complained, “Gonna be a long, hot summer.”
Nothing seemed to breathe. Even her bruises were laid out like hot lizards on the rocks. Pavlov drifted off with his cigarette glowing like a red eye, threatening to drop to the mattress and light the room on fire.
She watched the creeping shadows bloom across the house. One day she would go past the tether strangling her to the doorknob. She would run, gripping the dark wing of pounding rain that comes when the lip of night opens to the museum of stars, where the first whiff of salvation would airlift her from this war-torn, poverty-stricken country.