Johnny America


The Shirt Off His Back


quit­ting work, I got used to do­ing what­ev­er I want­ed, and I didn’t want to answer
the door. But who­ev­er was out­side wouldn’t quit ring­ing the bell. 

fi­nal­ly an­swered it but no­body was there, just a shirt float­ing in mid-air
above my porch. A long-sleeved, dark blue work shirt. The red em­broi­dery on the
pock­et spelled “Dou­glas.” My ex-hus­band. He said I took the shirt off his back
in the di­vorce settlement. 

fun­ny, Doug.” What was he both­er­ing me for? Grant­ed, I’m sure his lit­tle skank closed
her busy legs once she got to know him. Didn’t we all. I felt around for the
strings hold­ing the shirt up but didn’t find any. I searched the hedges for a
blow­er or some­thing. Nothing.

shirt held out its cuff for me to shake. It raised its sleeves as if to impress
me with its bi­ceps. It clasped its cuffs to­geth­er, begging.

all right,” I said. “Come in, then. But one word about the messy house and I’ll
get out the iron­ing board.”

don’t usu­al­ly have shirt vis­i­tors, so I for­got it didn’t have a mouth or
any­thing. I fixed two bour­bon and di­et Sprites, like I used to when Doug came
home from work. The shirt hov­ered above Doug’s place at the kitchen ta­ble. It
rest­ed its cuff on the drink, maybe to smooth over my gaffe. More likely,
know­ing Doug, to show off somehow.

was ready. I made friend­ly con­ver­sa­tion while serv­ing my­self. “So,” I said,
“How’s your sleazy ho?”

shirt land­ed face down on the table.

so good?”

quiv­ered all over. I couldn’t tell if it cried, laughed, or plea­sured it­self at
the mere men­tion of its sleazy ho. Her name was Hes­ter. Re­al­ly. Like Hester

you move?” There wasn’t enough room to put down my plate of spaghet­ti. I felt
weird not of­fer­ing him any, but what would he do with it?

guess what? I had a pool put in.” I opened the ver­ti­cal blinds. My Caribbean
blue, built-in swim­ming pool sparkled, be­yond the um­brel­la clothes­line. It took
up near­ly the whole small yard.

shirt’s shoul­ders slumped.

mean glow warmed my heart and spread through my chest. I paid for the pool out
of my fat, tasty di­vorce pro­ceeds. You’d think di­vorce would make you poorer.
Af­ter all, you are di­vid­ing as­sets, not mul­ti­ply­ing them. But Doug had an
in­her­i­tance, which would have been di­vorce-proof, ex­cept that he made the
mis­take of mix­ing in with mar­i­tal ac­counts rather than keep­ing it sep­a­rate. So,
I got half. He de­served it. In fact, if he got smart with me, I’d march him straight
out to that clothes­line and hang him out to dry again.

din­ner, we moved to the liv­ing room to watch TV like we used to. I curled up in
a cor­ner of the couch. Doug’s shirt hung above his recliner.

God. Why would any­one put a hun­dred grand in­to open­ing a restau­rant without
even work­ing in one first? Ha ha, the Chef En­forcer is right. Look, he’s made
the man cry!”

lapels tipped for­ward, nod­ding. Doug and I had talked about open­ing a restaurant.

Alas­ka re­al­i­ty show was next. A fam­i­ly poked around in the ru­ins of an ancient
vil­lage, pick­ing up ar­ti­facts. The fa­ther found a stone mask. 

that be neat, to find some­thing like that and hang it on your wall? Here we get
so used to our reg­u­lar life, we for­get so much more is possible.” 

and I had dis­cussed toss­ing it all and run­ning off some­where ex­ot­ic. But then he
ran off with an ex­ot­ic dancer in­stead, Hes­ter the Molester.

came around. It had been a love­ly evening. I didn’t know what to say so I just
went to bed.

shirt lurked in the bed­room doorway.

closed my eyes, not giv­ing it the chance to turn me down.

shirt set­tled on top of me. Doug’s de­li­cious man scent car­ried me off to sleep and
I slept straight through un­til morn­ing for a change.

the alarm went off, I made cof­fee and poured two cups be­fore re­mem­ber­ing. The
shirt wait­ed above Doug’s cus­tom­ary kitchen chair.

col­lar de­scend­ed for my morn­ing good-bye kiss, then Doug’s shirt sailed off
down the street. 

some chores calmed me, putting away dish­es, mak­ing the bed, tak­ing out the
kitchen trash. The house would be tidy when Doug’s shirt re­turned from work
that evening. I was glad we had man­aged to work things out af­ter all.

Filed under Fiction on August 23rd, 2013

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