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"Before the Thrill" by Amy Lyons

The man dove his fork into a sea of spaghetti, twirled a fat skein, slurped the wet tails that uncoiled in transit.

“Dry cleaning,” the woman answered. “A deposit, some calls.”

His day, he offered, unasked, smiling somewhat, had been similarly smooth. Sauce like a slaughter streaking his chin, he shook dandruff cheese from a plastic green cylinder. He couldn’t believe, he said a third time, the Pats had roared back after multiple fumbles and missteps last night. Snoring by nine, he’d missed the upset.

The woman poured a second glass from the week’s bulk reward. The per-bottle price had made the man pledge club allegiance. “Convenient,” he’d commented the day they signed up. “No need to go out.”

She swallowed.

Summer tastings, that dark-haired sommelier’s nuanced prologues, the scent of sharp cheese, the tang of tannins swirled on her tongue. Wine, when they’d met, involved destination, a dash of dress up, a heightening of senses, an unspoken stirring in her solar plexus. Last week, in her session, she’d dug for that feeling, but a terrifying blur had taken its place. Her therapist probed. The woman went further: “Shapeless, uncertain. Quicksand you can’t see.”

Ten minutes to sit-coms, the woman loaded the dishwasher. A few prongs had bent under the pressure of meal after meal eaten at home. Did the handyman carry a straightening tool? She tapped a quick text. Probably too small to drive all the way out. She started the cycle and stood there, adrift. Prior to appliances, before landscaping and built-ins and three point five bathrooms (back when the man and the woman had that one-bed near Broadway) she hand-washed, he toweled. Their hips grazed. Hands touched. A half dozen times, he took her right there, her yellow-gloved hands grasping the faucet, her screams kicking up a riot of suds.

She came back to herself when the hiss of pre-wash collided with the clamor of main cycle’s churn. “It’s starting,” the man shouted, two rooms removed.

Premium ice cream on his end table, light frozen yogurt on the one next to her. The man muted commercials to air office grievances he’d skipped during dinner: an overdue spreadsheet, a no-show new hire. The woman wondered if he knew she slept and web-surfed through her work-from-home days, sometimes smoked joints, began keying in data an hour or so before he pulled up. Remote work, she liked lying, did not equal idleness.

The woman flossed with a single-use pick. The man did it differently, his index fingers spooling, turning red at the tips. They leaned into separate sinks, a selling point the man still talked about to this day. They brushed. They spit. Swished capfuls of mouthwash.

The man reminded the woman about the latest statistics on cell phones in bed. Out in the hall, her heart hammered like heavy construction equipment. Not too small, the handyman’s little square said. What time should I come? She thumbed, backspaced, deleted thank you so much.

The man’s blanket breathed, the woman’s was weighted. She switched off her light and rolled toward the dark, away from the beam of the booklight she’d gifted him three birthdays ago. I’ll be here, she’d said, come whenever it’s good.

Before the Thrill is a prequel to After the Thrill, which was published by the very rad folks at Flash Frog and is included in Best Microfictions 2022. Amy's work has been published in Waxwing, HAD, Lunch Ticket, No Contact, FRiGG and a bunch of other places.


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