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The Mill, literary magazine at The University of Toledo, Fall 2012 – Fiction Contest Winner


“Hey, Jenny! Jenny! Did you see this?” He sat upright in bed propped up by four methodically stacked pillows, the newspaper held neatly with both hands. His bedside table was regimental in its tidiness adorned with only three items: a square, graphite-grey metal alarm clock; “Marketing for Scientists” by Marc J. Kuchner with a tan leather bookmark perfectly aligned to the spine; and a cream-faced watch with a black leather strap placed precisely parallel, two inches from the table edge nearest the bed.

“See what?” her reply was heavily muffled by the en-suite bathroom’s door and the loud hissing of the running tap.

“This, here, on page three!” No response came from behind the shut door. “Right here. I can’t believe it.” Still silence but he barreled on reading aloud from the article. “On Monday afternoon, classes at Whiteford Elementary School, in Sylvania, were interrupted when the whole school was evacuated after receiving a bomb threat. The threat came in the form of an anonymous phone call to the office of Principal Tyburski. The police department promptly arrived at the school to assist in the evacuation and was able to verify that there was no bomb on the school premises. The call was traced to the home of a fourth grader, who is believed to attend the school. Can you believe that! Jenny? Jenny, you listening to me?”

“Yeah, yeah. Yeah, its crazy!”

“What’s taking so long in there?”

“I’ll be out in a minute!” The buzz of her electric toothbrush started up.

—–§—-

In the bathroom Jenny stood with her eyes locked on her reflection as it slowly steamed over from the bottom upwards. One hand was gripping the edge of the sink while the other clenched her toothbrush. The hot tap was still running at high volume, the flow of the water so fast it pooled in the bottom of the sink before it could escape down the drain. A pink cardboard box, ripped open and face down, sat between the sink’s taps. Resting on top of it was the long, slim plastic stick of a pregnancy test. Jenny released her breath and slowly, deliberately moved her gaze down to the stick. One line was visible on the tiny display. Not pregnant. She closed her eyes tight for just a moment and swayed on her heals.

Letting go of the sink with her right hand she delved into the pocket of her green and red, polka dot robe and retrieved her cell phone. Deftly she typed an abrupt text message, ‘Not pregnant. It’s OK’, and punched send. Immediately she went back into the send messages folder, rapidly deleted the message she had just written, and then stuffed the phone back into its pocket. With swift, nimble motions she slid the stick back into its box, folded the flaps of cardboard back on themselves to trap the stick inside, and then jammed the box and its contents into the bowels of the sink’s cabinet behind a box of tampons.

“Seriously Jenny, everything alright?” his tone was more irritated than concerned. She stuck the toothbrush into her mouth and muttered an unintelligible reply.

—–§—-

“You heard it, right? The thing about the bomb threat?” he accosted her as she appeared from the bathroom.

“I told you I heard it.”

“Kids today! And right here in Sylvania! Who would have thought?”

“Yes, its crazy,” she threw her robe on to the top of a mixed up pile of clean and dirty clothes sitting on the armchair on her side of the room and slid under the covers.

“Get the light would you?” he asked. Twisting around she pushed the haphazard stack of books blocking her path to the lamp switch and thrust the room into darkness. He guided his arm under her head as she curled onto her side to face him. Crooking his arm around her back he settled his hand on her hip as she let her head nestle on his shoulder while pulling the duvet up to cover his bare chest.

“Night, love” he breathed into her hair.

“Night.”

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