Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

Selections from A Neighbor

BY MANDY MALLOY

She’d been outside my window every morning for weeks, until Wednesday. Where did she go on Wednesday? It couldn’t have been far. She’s not that large. Her legs can only carry her so far, and then there’s the question of her work. Tenacious, that’s the word. You’d never fire an employee like her.

I wondered if she might be hurt. I drank my coffee. Thought of her. How I should have spoken to her, even if she couldn’t have heard me. Through the window, waved. Something to show her how much I admired what she did. That I would miss her nimble legs.

***

We live under the same law, and that helps me love her. When she kneels to get her paper, one hand pulls at her shirt. She keeps her skin to herself. Her roll of fat. Putative lack of suntan. The surgical scar I imagine for her. If I go for a jog, she says in passing: Better you than me, kid. Smooths her blouse, preparing, with silver-tipped pruning sheers, to conduct the roses.

As if she might rise like an aria of mulch and new buds past the rest of us. Red Queen above the little women. As though her recycling bin isn’t filled with fat-free cookie packages. Twine-tied, meticulously folded. It doesn’t feel good to know this.

***

A dark smell seduces. She’s in need of coffee, if you can spare enough for a pot, please. Settles into the couch, explores my magazines. Custom makes us friendlier than we would be naturally. I don’t even read these—just collect what comes in the mail for free.

Grounds scatter on the counter like bread crumbs or rat poison. Both fester inside the pantry. My new brand comes in pellets—antiseptic, alien green bullets. Even their feces fluoresce, leave bright trails in the linoleum forest. The lucky ones die in their nests.

In a trial issue of Guns & Ammo, she turns to a spread of cannons. Mouths like empty olives. Black and white photography—proof of the pudding we’re in. What’s that I find in the tasting? Familiarity.

Oh, take a cookie at least. I bet she likes pimento cheese sandwiches. Petits fours. What aunts serve after funerals, with evilly sweet tea.

***

She’s a-buzz, and striped. We share the sun in a café, under the parapluie of a candy-striped awning. Mandibles tickle her front legs clean like a catty. Black widows wear black lace, but flies have jail stripes—what kind of bug am I?

As for the colorful skirt—beware—butterflies have their saris. What we need here is more sakhi.

It’s the wine speaking. Don’t come near me. Pepper spray, bollocks inside. My purse has forgotten me.

* sakhi, n. a Sikh fable; a Hindi/Telugu term for “woman friend.”