Trial Separation

by Kristen Tsetsi

Orson heard her walking around upstairs, the sound of the heels she never took off after work clack-clacking on the old linoleum, and he knew she was in the kitchen, then opening the refrigerator for milk to go with her chips – or peanuts – because all food made her thirsty. Softer clomping, now, into the living room where the noise stopped and was replaced by the pop of the speakers coming on with the TV, loud audience laughter punctuating the end of some talk show. She wouldn't get up for a while, now, he knew; it was her after-work sit-down time with her hands full of chips - or nuts - and the jug of milk. The bag she made him pack last night was soft under his head, though not as soft as a hotel pillow, but he'd lived here for thirty years and wasn't comfortable leaving, with living in a hotel, a building made for strangers and travelers and he was neither. She never came down to the basement - always made their son do it when Orson wasn't home, and if no one were home but her, she'd wait – so it was safe, and he could stay here, climb in and out through the window for work (he would have to take off the screen completely; she'd be likely to notice a tear in the mesh), and sneak up for the microwave when she was gone. And while the food spun on the plate, maybe he'd look through her things, see what she hid in her drawers - if anything - and look for any new books she's bought, notes she'd scribbled on pads of paper while talking on the phone, eavesdrop on thoughts she spoke to herself that he never thought to listen to before and probably should have.

6S

Kristen Tsetsi, who gave us Killing People is an Art, he said, is the author of Homefront and the founder and co-editor (with Shelly Rae Rich) of Tuesday Shorts. Her stories have appeared online in Storyglossia, Opium, edificeWRECKED, and others, and in print in RE:AL, Red Weather Magazine, and the 2006 Storyglossia Fiction Prize issue.