To Build an Hourglass

Gene had been drinking by himself in a shack of a flat for days; nights, really, since nothing worth remembering happened when the sun was still scorching--not that the bottle aided his nocturnal memory. He'd been dreading that ugly word which had always plagued him:  Almost. Regardless of the law, he knew what he'd seen on the mountain that day.

The air was so hot that the ice cubes in his cocktails melted before he got halfway through a glass and his sweat ran out of salt, as bland as his father's cooking. "Inefficiency's a sin, like Satan sinking in," he recalled from melodic Sunday school classes he'd been dragged to feebly by parents yet to part. Pints of water poured from his pores and soaked the thin layer of cotton that remained on his supine body. He cursed the man who'd swindled him into taking rooms on the third floor, though the farther away from the public eye that he stayed, the longer his freedom would last.

"At least they've got plenty of ice made up where I'm going," he laughed to himself beneath a squeaking ceiling fan that pushed more dust than it did air. His mother had always given him credit for making the most out of Aces and Eights--a trait that she'd claimed as her genetic offering. After her funeral, once everyone respectable had left to their houses and horse barns and preconceived notions of what it meant to pursue happiness, Gene approached her freshly buried grave and plucked a few flowers from arrangements that meant nothing. "Mary Lou will like these fine," he explained to his silent mother. Gene wasn't a superstitious man, even back before the gods got him good, but he swore he heard a mourning dove signal her agreement; or maybe a mockingbird. He'd always gotten the two as confused as lust and love. "They sure won't have this gin there, though," he said, referring to that big house full of ice. "Better enjoy it now."

At least there wouldn't be Sunday drivers. At least no fireworks would make him miss Mary Lou now that she'd gone to visit others conjugally instead. At least there'd be hope, his second-favorite amenity--next in line after a little black dress. Perspiring into a rented chaise lounge as stained and tattered as his life, Gene waited for the knock and accepted his fate with a swig of warm spirits:  He'd rather be loved than right.

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