She found him hiding in the far corner of the back yard where the brush had overgrown the barbed wire fence. He’d fallen asleep in the dusty, pungent shade beneath the deep azure of the Nevada sky.

            “Wake up,” she trilled, her voice envenomed with sarcasm and disdain. “What kind of man sleeps out in the weeds like a dog? What a loser. Sitting out here all alone in the dust when you should be inside spending time with your wife.” He felt himself growing more insubstantial, as if her words were heating up and cooking off the very essence of his being. “You know, most men prefer to spend time with their wives. They don’t try to hide from them. You are such a child. How old are you?”

            He staggered to his feet and thought for a moment he might lose his balance. He opened his mouth to assert himself, to warn her not to speak to him in such a manner, but his voice cowered in his throat. Was he getting shorter? Though he stood at his full height, his gaze was level with her mouth. Jesus, her mouth—the fleshy portal issuing forth a constant miasma, the toothy gate to his personal Hell.

            “Nothing to say for yourself?” she continued. He didn’t lower his gaze, yet he was sure he was staring at a lower point on her face than he was a moment before. What was happening to him? “Go on. Explain to me what you’re doing out here. At least be man enough to tell me that much to my face.” He opened his mouth and shut it like a fish gulping air. He brandished his shaking forefinger to no avail. His face reddened, growing hot with his impotence, and he turned a stomped back toward the house. Dusk was approaching now, and he was glad. Perhaps the darkness would hide his shame. His wife called after him, “Great! Yeah. Just walk away. Keep ignoring me. Now you want to go inside. Isn’t that convenient? What kind of man did I marry after all? Are you even a man?” She was still taunting him when he slid the glass porch door shut. He jogged up the stairs, grateful for the reprieve of silence. He went straight to the bathroom and shutting and locking the door behind him. A moment later he heard the whisper of the slider opening.

            He looked in the mirror, determined to find out what kind of man indeed couldn’t stand up to his shrew of a wife. He was shocked when he realized he could barely see his eyes reflected because he was so short. He hadn’t seen a mirror from this elevation since he was a child. Even more disturbing than his lost height was his growing insubstantiality: he was becoming steadily less opaque. He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head, hoping to clear this hallucination from his vision, but when he gazed upon his reflection again, only the barest outline remained, like God had lightly sketched in his existence then gave up.

            She let fly another verbal volley of abuse. He knew now he was a goner.


About Jeff Opfer

Jeff is a carpenter and freelance writer born and raised in the Reno area. View all posts by Jeff Opfer

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