Each night Harold and his wife Daisy eat at their yellow table originally bought to be a conversation starter. This is where most of their contact happens. In fact, 1,892 dinners have taken place at the yellow table, 622 spaghetti nights by Harold’s count. When she hears Harold’s sigh, she blames the repetition on one of Harold’s repetitions—like losing jobs or forgetting the first thing she asked by the time she asked the second. Typically, each night at the yellow table is where she goes down her list and asks him questions like: “do you love me and how much (expanding hand gesture)” or “can I borrow the car (dangling hand gesture)?”

By this time in their relationship, their sixth year, Daisy has gotten ornery. Her questions have become harder to answer, some are statements in the form of a question to preserve objectivity like, “You’ll never know what I want, will you?”

Harold went to the mall. He rolled up his khakis to the knee, filled his pockets with nickels and pennies from the wishing fountain and trudged away sopping and chiming from a mall cop. When he got home, he dropped the wet wishes and wants before her feet and told her that one of these has to be it.

By this time in their relationship, their sixth year, those questions that were turning into statements were turning into brutal accusations and insults. A week ago she told him, “Your imagination can’t see past a wall. You got no vision. If you want me to stay, you need to show me forever, Harold.”

Forever, he thought, forever. First, he lit their shed on fire to see if the answer would come running out. When that didn’t work, he stole women’s purses, poured out their belongings, and looked through their pharmacy bottles like a telescope. He turned to science, raided labs, took shiny instruments to mice, reptiles, and one black cat named Mystery. He even wondered if the answer lied in religion, but could never find a comfortable position to read a book so thick. Eventually, it came to him, this idea more obvious, more grounded.

Harold’s hands covered her eyes, “keep them closed, almost there.” When he took his hands away she realized that she was in a graveyard. She screamed a disappointment—one so loud a fault line ran along a tombstone.

Harold thought if he stayed in the exact same spot along this bone-dry land, her stare would dissolve him into nothingness. He needed to run to the first thing that would confirm his reflection, so he ran to the car and stared into the driver side window, Daisy trailing behind. He ran his fingers down his face, felt his chest, rubbed his knees, breathed and breathed, then he felt a tender hand on his hip while her other hand twined his pale, shaking fingertips, but slowly his fingers began to bend, then crack, and in a shudder of pain he turned to her stoic face, and to get some sort of reprieve, Harold had to move down upon a knee.

Zack Stein

Zack Stein

Zack Stein has been published here and there, which you may have seen, bust mostly way over there, which you most likely have not seen. He was known as “Shakes” in prison for writing love letters for fellow inmates. Don’t listen to rumors of his brilliant, life-changing masterpiece, a 2000 page poem with crayon illustrations, buried in a nearby cemetery—they are unsubstantiated.
Zack Stein

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