“A Lesser Cement” – Fiction by Anna Lea Jancewicz

In some ways, “A Lesser Cement” (Anna Lea Jancewicz‘s flash fiction from our Spring 2015 issue) is a love story like countless others. But in other ways, it’s a unique love story– particularly in the way that it’s about a girl who marries a hammer.

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THERE WAS A GIRL WHO MARRIED A HAMMER. At first, it seemed like a pretty great idea. He was the strong and silent type. She found him on Craigslist, and he only cost her five bucks. She knew he was used, but she had a checkered past herself, one she didn’t want to talk about, so that part was okay. Their first date was awesome. She made a huge pot of matzo ball soup and they lay on her couch, binge-watching Firefly in its entirety. He didn’t complain when she ate all the matzo balls, and she never had to pause the show for him to take pee breaks or get beers. When he fell asleep on the couch, she covered him with a freshly laundered dish towel, tucking it under his sloping claw. He looked serene in the blue television glow. She was sure they’d be very happy together.

She liked his soft rubber grip, the way it fit perfectly in her hand, as if they were made for each other. Things could get a little rough in the bedroom, but it wasn’t so bad. He cracked one of her molars, but she liked that she could sit at her desk at her job during the day tonguing the sharp edge of the broken tooth and thinking about him. It felt like a barnacle. She was glad he never discarded used cotton swabs on the bathroom floor or insisted on listening to NPR when he rode in her car, because she liked to rock out. She was glad he didn’t make fun of her when she didn’t know how to fix something on her computer and it took her a long time to do it. She liked that he had no misguided opinions about female underarm hair equating to lax hygiene. He didn’t snore. He didn’t smugly correct the way she mispronounced certain words that she’d only ever read but never heard aloud.

She planned a simple wedding. Bunches of hyacinths, a white sundress, some fried chicken. She danced down the aisle to The Breeders’ “Divine Hammer” and when her cousin Lisa uploaded the video of it to YouTube, it went viral. There were a few nasty internet comments about the width of her butt, which she ignored. Mostly, America thought it was pretty awesome. The night before the wedding, she’d gotten a sharp new haircut and polished the groom’s head to a high sheen. They made a very handsome couple. Her parents, of course, were still bummed that he wasn’t Jewish, but after the truly excellent job he did smashing the glass, even they shouted Mazel tov! with genuine glee. They honeymooned for a week at the Ramada Inn on Route 40.

It was after they settled in to their new life together that she began to feel melancholic. She wished he had man-sized flannel shirts she could wear around the apartment, the way she’d always imagined herself attired for wifely lounging. She noticed for the first time that he really didn’t have a smell. She wanted him to smell like sweat. Musky. That would have been sexy. She wished they could talk about books, argue Dostoyevsky vs. Tolstoy. And share strawberry gelato, licking the spoon friskily. She tried to imagine what his voice would sound like, if he’d had a voice. She tried to imagine him stealthing up behind her as she soaped dishes in the kitchen sink, whispering in her ear. She wanted him to say You are my golden bird. She wanted him to say You destroy me.

She’d eyeball him miserably from across the breakfast table each morning. Her belly was tangled with loneliness, even in his presence. Especially in his presence. In the end, she wrote a really complimentary Craigslist ad and listed him for the sale price of five bucks. It felt wrong to try to turn a profit. He sold quickly. There was nothing of his to get rid of in the apartment, no scent of him clinging to pillow cases or used bath towels. Her eyes were slushy with tears but life just tramped on.  She ordered delivery Chinese for supper.

She got a tiny tattoo of a hammer on her shoulder. It looked just like him, and she thought of him often. She hoped he was satisfied in his new life. She hoped that he was building things, breaking things. Sometimes, at the laundromat or in the line at the post office, a person would recognize her from the YouTube video. They’d ask about him. She would sigh and ball her fists in the pockets of her hoodie, pinching her fingernails into her palms. She would say I thought it would be forever.  She had thought that. But it wasn’t like they’d murdered a hobo together or anything. It was only love, a lesser cement.

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banned books me2ANNA LEA JANCEWICZ lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where she homeschools her children and haunts the public libraries. She is an Associate Editor at Night Train, and her writing has appeared or is forthcoming at Atticus Review, Hobart, matchbook,Prime Number, WhiskeyPaper, and many other venues. Yes, you CAN say Jancewicz: Yahnt-SEV-ich. More at: http://annajancewicz.wordpress.com/

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