Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Gown's Tale

This is a piece of non-genre flash fiction I penned four or five years ago and it's been nearly impossible to find a home for it.  When I submitted it to Flash Quake Magazine, it was rejected by one of the editors as being "irreconcilably weird" (which I took as a compliment).  I still like the story a lot though, so I thought maybe I should put it in my Six Demon Bag for safe keeping.

The Gown's Tale

            I wasn't expensive. I was found in a thrift shop, nestled between the other wedding gowns, smelling vaguely of moth balls, and waiting for that certain someone: someone who needed a dress slightly on the larger size, who wouldn't mind the pinhole burns hidden within the folds of my fabric. Someone whose budget matched my price tag and knew they would look radiant with me draped over their body; even if it was only for that one, special day.

            As it must, I suppose, time passed. Now, he is taking me out of the closet like he's done every night for the last six months. He holds the hanger with one hand and runs the other slowly along my bodice, so cool and smooth against his rough palm. His hand lingers at the waistline, slightly off to the side, as if I were a person whom he would soon be pulling closer to him, perhaps for a dance or a slow, sweet kiss. For a moment, it almost seems as if he will kiss me; but, instead, he closes his eyes and inhales through his nose, breathing in the lightly spiced aroma of the perfume he sprays me with every Sunday afternoon. His hands  tremble as he squeezes his eyes shut more tightly and savors the ghost of a scent five days old.

            When he opens them again, he takes me across the room and gingerly lays me out across the bed. He brushes away a bit of lint with his fingertips and smooths some minor wrinkles before turning his attention to his belt. He is unhurried and silent as he removes his clothes, allowing pants and underwear to slip to the floor where they curl around his feet and wait, like a faithful dog by its master's side. His shirt joins the pile and, completely naked now, his skin starts to dimple as the cool air chills his body. And yet he remains so methodical, so meticulous in his routine, that I don't think it ever occurs to him to adjust the thermostat.

            Instead, he walks to the nightstand at the foot of the bed and turns on the television. The cassette is already loaded in the VCR and he only has to push the play button before turning and walking back to where I lay. It is the same tape as always, played so often that no amount of tracking can clear up the fuzzy lines jumping and jittering across the screen....

            He takes me off my hanger and slips me over his head, allowing my material to cascade over his body like silken moonlight. I rustle softly as he shuffles over and sits on the edge of the bed, one hand absently petting the fabric bunched up around his knees as he turns his attention to the images playing across the television screen.

            There is a close-up of a woman on the tape and she laughs as she pushes a lock of dark hair away from eyes that twinkle like two pools of clear water on a sunny day. The woman leans toward the camera, and the change in focus causes her features to blur. Even through the cheap speakers, her voice sounds light and giddy when she speaks.

            "I know it's a clich√©, but this really is the happiest day of my life…"

            His body trembles at the sound of her voice and he wraps his arms so tightly around himself that my boning presses into his ribs.

            The camera pulls back and there I am, on the screen, looking much more delicate and elegant on the woman than I ever have on him. In the background, he passes by: so dapper and suave in his rented tux, his cummerbund as close of a match to my pinkish sheen as they could find.
"Hey, I'm gonna throw the bouquet now, okay? Everyone gather ‘round…"

 And now, as every night, he buries his face into his hands as the tears overtake him. He rocks back and forth, his body hitching and shuddering with sobs, knowing that wearing me is as close to her as he can ever be again.

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