Bottom of the World by Ron Gibson, Jr.

Nona and I are on a couch, in a room I do not recognize. The walls are lined with inlaid shelves of old books, like I have always wanted.

No titles visible, drab and beautiful as Moscow tenements. I watch her drawing a comic strip with Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck, as Tom Waits’s growl swims in and around us like eels from unseen speakers. She feels my eyes, looks at me, awkwardly smiles, and returns to filling in the balloons with all the words she does not say aloud.

Heavy rain gallops on rooftop when an analog phone begins to clatter on an end table at the other side of the room.

Analog

“Analog” (image via Flickr user Paul Papadimitriou)

I feel as if I am watching myself get up to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Hi…”

My skin recognizes her voice before I do.

“Um…hi.” I sound like someone else.

I look back at Nona drawing, in her own world, and hold my breath as I listen to Nona quietly breathe on the other side of the phone.

I blink first. “H-how’re you?”

Silence.

“Hello?”

“I’m here,” she says. “I’ve been good. I’m married.”

“I know,” I say quickly.

“Why didn’t you come to the wedding?”

“I…I…had other things to do.”

“Right,” she says.

“I’m sorry.”

“I know. You’ve said it before…I…”

Silence.

I keep watching Nona drawing, Tom Waits filling me near tears.

“I didn’t want someone else to tell you…I’m having a baby.”

Tears fall. Nona looks up from her sketch pad, and I twist around to hide my face. The world outside is dark. Too dark.

“Who is it?” Nona asks from the couch.

I whisper in the phone, “Congratulations,” and hang up.

“Who was it?” Nona asks.

The heavy rain outside the window looks like dirt, one spadeful falling after another.

Ron Gibson, Jr. has previously appeared or is forthcoming at Exquisite Corpse, Word Riot, 521 Magazine, Smokebox, Stirring, Maudlin House, etc. He has been included in various anthologies and was nominated for a Pushcart. @sirabsurd

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