“When the stock market roars again, I’m prepared.” John Jacobs, on the porch at dusk, says things he thinks I like to hear. “Did I ever tell you a quetzal’s beauty is no match for you?”
I tell him I’m no bird.
He nods. A branch of magnolia waves in the heavy air. I take a sip of iced tea, imagine the wild life we’d share. Resistance, my mother said, is something a man likes to bear in the morning, straightens him up as he heads out for the day, but night, night is for their conquering.
I say, “You’re going to buy a circus then.”
His huffing laugh skitters the lazy cat. “Where on earth did you hear that?”
The stage beneath our feet is peeling. There are layers of paint as old as this house, lifetimes of summer promises, sweaty gropes, fears of getting caught in untenable embraces. I rise, nearly exit stage right.
“I don’t remember. Maybe Glen told me you were intent on catching a tiger this evening.”
“My, my,” is all he manages after another bout of laughter. “My.”
I flare my skirt, lean against the railing strewn with twinkle lights. “Honestly, I thought you were interested in my sister.”
John Jacobs grows cold with defiance. “You know better than that.”
“Do I?” I tilt my head in challenge. Do I want a poet? A man who’d buy me quills? Someone to tame me with delight? There is a flutter in my heart.
Swift! He is beside me, a row of molecules between his oil, my vinegar. My lips twist into an uncertain grin. His mouth is grim with intent.
He says, “I should kiss you.”
“To shut me up?”
“No.” Such steady breath after strong words. Such spicy breath. “That? Never.”