Two Weeks Later He Flew off to Afghanistan Again
by Barry Basden
It's New Year's Eve. Mark's lying across the bed, not moving. "This is too hard," he says. Poor baby. I love him and try to be a good wife. Johnny and Megan love him more than their real father.
I put on my red blouse, the one that shows so much cleavage. We need the tips. The deadbeat is late again. Mark hates for other men to ogle me, but that's what he used to do—look at me with those puppydog eyes until I took him home one night, him with no better prospects than the army. It's been base after base, dragging the kids all over. Now we're stuck in Killeen and Mark's got shipment orders again. Be all you can be, they say.
When I leave, the three of them are on the couch, eating popcorn out of one big bowl, watching people mill around in Times Square. Whatever happened to Dick Clark?
It's after three when I get home. The house is quiet. I stand in the shower and let the water pour over me, washing away the glitter, the smoke and sweat. I towel off, pad across the room, pull back the sheets, and dump all my tips on Mark. He grunts awake and seems about sixteen when I straddle him. I look into his sleepy eyes and begin to move. Bills crinkle and stick to my damp calves. Coins roll against us. There's three, maybe four hundred dollars in bed with us—a fortune really, lifesaving.
I feel Mark stir and pull his head against my breasts. He puts his hands on me, grasping. It doesn't take long and I lean back to watch his face change. Now he looks even younger.
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First published by Matter Press in 2013 as their first triptych.