“Alone with All You Can’t Hear” – Fiction by Jason Namey

The Twin Stars - Luis Ricardo Falero, circa 1890
The Twin Stars – Luis Ricardo Falero, circa 1890

From our Fall 2016 issue, “Alone with All You Can’t Hear” is Jason Namey‘s twisted tale of a troubled twin & an eccentric assassin.

{ X }

THE CORK BOARD FLYER SAID I CAN KILL YOUR HUSBAND in discreet serif; I laughed at how funny it would be to call the listed number, but I wasn’t married. I called anyway.

I had sweated two coffees past midnight, time spent necking bare toes beneath a cafe table, avoiding the graphic design jobs my sister had been sweeping my way.

“Just find the shape for the puzzle pieces of your life,” she had said as we shared a glass of wine in bed a few weeks earlier. “Like take for instance me and Paul.” Every time Paul looked at me, I could feel him thank his luck for finding the fairer half of that zygote. Except when it was Christmas at their house and we sat next to each other on the couch and he pretended to need the remote control but really just wanted to reach over my legs and let his elbow brush my knee.

“What am I supposed to take for instance from you and Paul?” I asked.

“Well for one we don’t ask so many questions.”

My sister did not like questions. Not normal ones, not rhetorical ones, not moral ones.

I liked questions.

Like for instance: If Paul wasn’t around, would me wanting to move into their guest room still be considered “needy and pathetic”?

I flattened the flyer with my hand, while the ringing phone gave birth to blank space.

“Hello,” a tired, female voice said.

“I’m looking at your flyer outside Coffee Hut.”

“And you’re interested.”

“Give me the scoop, kid.”

“Be patient, lady. I need to be up soon to feed four kids eating their way to JV. We’ll meet in twelve hours, fifteen feet to your right.”

I tiptoed home over the cyanide white sidewalk, leaping cracks, not letting the palms of my feet touch. Each streetlight I legged under was the sun of some legendary world. I danced across galaxies.

I want to make love with everyone; I don’t want to make love with anyone.

I want to make love with my sister.

At home, I crawled onto the couch, a ball of caffeine flesh. I put in headphones and played Beck and dreamed about chewy toast on Sunday mornings.

{ X }

I sat at the cafe rear with a blueberry muffin, watching her over a newspaper, scoping the scene, eyes flirting between her pecked bites and poised spine. She bought a bagel and cup of hot water. She brought her own cream cheese. After my second turn through the Lifestyle section, she checked her watch and said “Lady, you coming over here or what?”

I gave a look like “Huh?” and pretended she meant someone behind me but there was just a Coltrane poster back there so I cut the act and walked over. She smiled when I sat down. A frolic of cream cheese draped her lip. I wanted to pin her and lick it off.

She leaned in and spoke too loud. “What is your reason? If you want to share. Just making conversation.” Another bite without wiping her mouth; a smear to fill the canyon of my tongue.

“He buys reduced fat creamy peanut butter instead of regular fat crunchy.” I pinched my thigh.

She nodded and took a tea bag from her purse and let it bob in the hot water.

I scratched around the wedding band, purchased that morning. “But it’s not that he does that so much as he’s the kind of person who does that.”

She used the last bite to lipstick the cream cheese from her mouth.

“So what’s the deal?” I whispered.

She grew louder. “You put the dough in a safety-deposit box and give me the key. I do my thing, take the cash, and return the key. The key becomes our primary communication device,” she said. “Words are just seashells.”

She wrote down numbers on a napkin and slid it to me. I arched my eyebrows just high enough to say, “This is expensive but money is no concern,” not so high as to say, “I will be flipping couch cushions this evening.” I had practiced in the mirror for hours.

She said, “Meet me back here tomorrow. This is a process.”

“Same place same time same sexy bitches,” I said.

“Are you gonna finish that?” she motioned to the muffin at my previous table. I had picked out all the fruit. “My boys are practically eating the shoes off my feet.”

“Yes I am very much going to finish that,” I lied.

On her way out, she grabbed her flyer off the cork board, blew her nose into it and tossed it in the trash. I fingered some cream cheese off her plate and rubbed it in the corner of my lip. She would look cute painted naked on my laptop. The piece would be titled “Cream Cheese Killer with Stuffy Nose and Buy Your Own Goddamn Muffin.”

{ X }

The next day we met again, coupled around almond milk lattes that I paid for. She picked at the table’s scabby wood. She must keep cuts open for the company. Her lips, dry and cracked, reminded me of my sisters. I wished they were covered in cream cheese.

“Who is your favorite classical composer?” I asked.

“Stockhausen.”

“He’s not classical.’”

“Do I want to know yours?”

“Haydn.”

“Original.”

“It’s not like I said Beethoven.”

“No. It’s not like you said Beethoven.”

A scalding sip. I prefer lattes with heavy cream but she ordered first and I love how snappy it sounds when I say, “Make it two.”

She said, “Would you rather be blind or lose the feeling in the left-hand side of your body?”

“Wait,” I said. “Am I left handed or right handed?”

“Are you left handed or right handed?”

“Blind. Wait. Midnight blind or can I see fuzzy shapes?”

“Meet in the middle.”

“I guess it’s silly to have double everything. Like God cut us from paper and didn’t realize the sheet bent back on itself.”

She stirred her drink with a fingernail.

I stirred my drink with a fingernail.

“Where does your husband work?”

“What?” I said. “Oh.”

I took a napkin and pen and block lettered the name and address of Paul’s company and slid it to her.

“Where does he take after work cocktails?”

Napkin. Block letters. Slid.

“And,” she said, “his name is?”

Napkin. Paused. Block Letters. Paused. Folded the napkin across itself. Paused.

Still paused.

Slid.

She glanced at the counter. “I should get some egg sandwiches for the boys.”

“On me.” I handed her one of the twenties kept in my bra.

“Thanks,” she said, then frowned at her drink, still five-sevenths full. “Do they have to-go cups?”

“No,” I lied. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I watched her order and wait. On her way through the door, she blew her nose on one of the napkins and tossed it in the trash.

Me and my two drinks and my table and my napkins and my laptop that I pulled out. My inbox was full of emails with question marks in the subject header. My subject header. I hit “Select All → Delete.”

I finished my drink and pulled hers closer. Ice cold.

“Hey kid,” I said to the barista. “Would you zap this?”

She brought it back and the next sip burnt my tongue. That’s why I come here. I love being kept on my toes. I went to the bank and rented a safety deposit box and made timid eyelashes at the banker who took my order like it was a double-cheeseburger with fries.

When I see the sun, I never know which way it’s headed till I look at my watch.

{ X }

I developed the habit of staining Marlboros with lipstick. My sister says smokers just want to be seen smoking. But I want to be smelled. When you smell me, I become you and you me.

Our third meeting. I sat in my car and watched her walk in, then rushed to the neighboring clothing store and bought the nearest looking replica. The cashier asked if I wanted to open up a store credit card and I said, “I’m in the habit of shopping elsewhere.”

When I walked in the cafe, thin-breathed and damp lipped, I motioned my hand back and forth between our outfits, feigning pleasant surprise. “We’re twins,” I said.

“That’s a different brand,” she said and I blushed.

I sat down and started to apologize for my tardiness, but her fragrance overpowered me. It smelled like she had backstroked through a corncob pipe. Love me now.

“Personal request,” she winked, probably thinking I heard Stockhausen playing through the room, but I didn’t.

“We’re on track,” she said.

“What’s important is precision, safety, and breakfast,” she said.

She said, “It’s hard because it’s not hard at all.”

“Some things in life are more important than death,” she said. “Sometimes death takes a backseat.”

She said “Death doesn’t mind the backseat. Fewer airbags back there.”

She lit a cigarette, said, “Remind me to tell you that every murder is a poem.”

She said, “I once watched the sunrise so long I saw a black streak for three days.”

“I have four sons who each need two hundred fifty grams of protein. Every day,” she said.

“A kilogram of protein,” she said, “passes daily through my kitchen. We weigh it out like smugglers.”

She said “I get aroused by the sound of people cracking their knuckles.”

“I want to smell your scars,” she said.

She said, “I want to give birth to you.”

I set the key between us.

She leaned in. “Last chance.”

Silence.

“The next time you see this, you’ll have nothing to kiss but cigarette tips,” she said and grabbed the key and left. Her cigarette still hung in the air, smoking itself. Did a piece of her stay everywhere she went? The paper burned like a zipped cut through the slim of a dress. My throat was parched from so much listening. All around, people spent starved pleading air. The espresso machines, gasping for breath.

{ X }

Weeks went by without hearing from her. The safety deposit box had been emptied, but it was just filled with fake, paper money printed from a template I made on my laptop. I had done this on a whim so she would have a reason to see me again after the job was completed.

Every afternoon I went to the cafe and sat in plain sight, but every afternoon the barista said she hadn’t seen her.

Days like today, old ladies played mahjong in the cafe rear. Every time they laughed they flashed yellow fangs. Is anything more boring than someone else’s excitement?

I sipped an almond milk latte.

The old ladies folded the board and left. The barista rode off on her bike. Another took over. An after-schooler with black-rimmed glasses.

I finished my coffee which is why there’s more coffee. Lately I bit my fingernails less and sniffed them more. They always smelled like I-need-a-cigarette. Today they smelled like I-need-two.

The doors salooned open. A circus cowboy troupe high-stepped in. Dirty, dusty, scented with gunpowder and homemade perfume. A few rode crutches. Some juggled six-shooters. They were all plaid and bandanna and machismo. Horses, tied outside, kicked up sidewalk chalk.

The cowboys shot blanks and acted out glorious deaths. They backflipped over tables and whispered dying haikus. Two folk guitars began to duel.

One sharp looker came over and extended a hand. I crossed legs and leaned back to give him the roundabout and practice my femme fatale. But before I could even start the bit, a jockey walked over and shinned him, then extended his hand. I tried to holster my sex appeal but they just kept piling on, punching and kicking, firing near each other’s ears. I tipped my cigarette against a mug and listened to the cartoon violence. The boot incantations. I sipped the unheard sounds.

{ X }

JASON NAMEY  is an MFA student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he is a prose editor for Permafrost Magazine. His stories appear or are forthcoming in Moon City Review, Phantom Drift, fieldsTwo Thirds North, and elsewhere. He is from Jacksonville, Florida.

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