“For a Moment She Thought” by Bill Cook

Joan fucks Caleb on weekends. Weekdays are for Sonia. Each own separate parts of her. If anyone tries to get too close, she’ll tell them of the crazed bus driver that mowed down her husband, John. She’ll tell them he was the real deal. That she’s a fucking wreck. She just needs to keep doing her best to seem natural.

About the Author

Bill Cook’s work has appeared in Juked, elimae, Right Hand Pointing, SmokeLong Quarterly, in Dzanc’s anthology Best of the Web 2009, New Flash Fiction Review, Monarch Review, and elsewhere. He resides in a small community nestled within the Sierra Pelona Mountain Range.


She warms a plate of food in the microwave atop her refrigerator. Afterwards, she smokes a cigarette in the chrome dinette chair and flips through the latest issue of Bust.’ Joan reads an article about divorce and dating, lust and sex, and stops on the page of fall clothing ads. She’d read last month about weight loss and anorexia; she’s happy she’s only marginally overweight. Some days, she’ll meet Sonia for a jog, making love afterwards, or eating a bagel and drinking coffee at the café. Sometimes they laugh and talk easily. It’s good practice, she’s learning to seem natural.

When Joan arrives at the gallery where she works, Caleb is there, the man she fucks at weekends. Never weekdays. That’s Sonia’s. ‘They each own their separate parts of her.’ Her hair is red-brown today. Caleb gives her a look like he’s happy she’s there. When this is where she works. “Well…what do you think?” she asks. To fend off the needy ones, who want to talk babies or a future, she talks of her dead husband John, of how he was the man, that she’s a fucking wreck. Caleb leaves, telling her she’s a mess, like it’s news.

The next morning, at the café, Joan decides she needs to end it. All of it. Sonia’s late — her brother calls and tells her she had a heart attack last night and died. All alone. Without her.

Joan walks around the blocks of the city, contemplating road signs like ‘You once lived here’, finally arriving at ‘This life fucking sucks!’ At daybreak, she stumbles into the dark subway tunnel. ‘She stops and inhales the past lives around her.’ She gets her ticket stamped. She stands behind a tall girl in a cotton-printed dress. Something about her attracts Joan. She imagines thrusting her face first onto the electrified subway tracks. She’s numb, pissed off about John, Sonia, Caleb. As she climbs onto the subway train, the girl turns to her. The girl says they might have been great lovers. But Joan isn’t the type to save.

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