Apr/May 2009  •   Fiction


by Darlin' Neal

On the train there is a woman in pearls kissing a little dog looking like a rat. Her skin is white as milk and her blouse very low cut. Her breasts rattle with the train and Coeli finds herself thinking milk shake milk shake milk shake along with the engine noise until music comes over the intercom and she tries to remember the name of the tune.

It is from an album a friend gave her long ago, a friend who died way, way too young. It is Keith Jarrett's "Koln Concert" from the half of the album set stolen along with her stereo, stolen by someone who probably never listened more than once or all the way through. Coeli remembers going into her bedroom and seeing the empty space where the stereo had been. She remembers the thin white curtains billowing around the open, screenless window in that old house in Mesilla.

She remembers not long before when her friend was still alive, she'd met an old man in the grocery who talked to her baby in the basket, who said, "Won't be long till she'll be old as me. Seems like a long time, but it's not." She watches fields flying past outside the window as the train moves on. She waits for the wine to come round and holds onto that man's words like a lingering prayer. The milky woman already has wine. She raises her glass, says, "Cheers," and kisses that little dog again.