Step on a Crack
by Marilyn Bates



Across the parking lot, half-broken acorns scab the tarmac. She steps out of her car looking for bare spots, but there are none. Making her way toward the entrance to the building, she thinks of the acorns as knobs of his spine, cracked into irreducible bits beneath the lizard skin boots she wears. Maybe she can make the energy hold for the entire day, his last, frank admission that well, no, he never thought of coming back, still stinging her ears.
Two fat acorns snap, like his eyes popping from their sockets, reminding her of olives she once squeezed the pimento out of, leaving a plate of little red tongues to wag about the party she gave that didn't go well. If only she could think of him as debris of some sort--the stubbed out cigarettes ground into the grout of the mosaic ash tray they bought in Spain, the petulant face of the Naked Maja obliterated by ground-in soot. Gone down the disposal in one swell of water and grinding blades, all of his pontifications at the party about crafty business deals, ones he entrusted only to men friends.
A pair of acorns joined on a fallen twig just waited for her heel as if she were stepping into his crotch for all the times he dangled the promise of children then pulled back spewing out a list of objective reasons why he couldn't, just couldn't see it working out. She felt plucked dry, an egg debrided of its yolk. Suddenly a bolus of shells skitters across the asphalt, like phalanges of his feet, crushed in one fell swoop of her step, as she remembers the haughty way he capped his feet with Gucci's, as if his accoutrements spoke of him--the briefcase with the brass hasps, the Mont Blanc pen he wielded in an illegible scrawl across contracts, outwitting his competitors.
How she loved it when he left the shoes behind in his haste, loading them onto the dumpster along with the rest of the summer rot--a crush of fallen crabapples, fat hornets beating their wings for one more suckle of juice. Flowers nipped by frost then heated in the day's sun, collapsed into one gelatinous mass, where the shoes rested. Rain filled their leather insoles, arching their cracked backs until the garbage men finally came and carted it all away.
As she approaches the door, a horse chestnut's swag of buckeye awaits her rage. She fills her fist, hurling them against the stucco wall of the building, their yellow insides pockmarking the pristine wall. Just inside the glass doors, a row of craggy cactus droops in the heat of the hallway. Their impotent spines no longer hold a sting.
Through the oak archways, the attorneys are waiting--his and hers. She sees him at a table at the end of the hallway as she nears the room, her eye a camera, the aperture enlarging with each step as he comes into focus, his cool sandpaper jaw- line tilted at the yellow legal pad. After amenities and low-voiced introductions, she sits down at the table, an acorn hidden in her palm. She feels it crack under the force of her thumb.






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