Henrietta Goodman

Penelope at the Wheel

A young man walks toward the jukebox and I follow him because I’m tired of listening to the old man with a pocket of chew in his bottom lip slur his way through the same question again and again. Out the window, the water tower floats, a bloated fish ringed with red light. When we met after a year apart, he brushed his hand over my palm, across the callus at the base of each finger, then held an ice cube, let it melt where he drew it down between my breasts. In the morning, gone again. It was good to have something to wait for, to write those careful letters—if not beautiful then terrible told well. But the other thing, the thing I tore apart each day, only a fool would do it—each night the wasted passion of a one-night stand, bored and objectless. Someone takes a picture and the flash explodes against my face with the force of a slap. One day I’ll end up in a box with those black and white photos of men on a wolf hunt, nameless children unsure whether they’re allowed to smile.