The Bump

by Len Joy

Sidney fumbled his way toward Marcia’s makeup table, bifocals pushed to the edge of his receding hairline. He flicked on the light switch to her cosmetics mirror and studied his inflamed left eye.

“What are you doing, hon?” Steam billowed from the bathroom as Marcia emerged, naked, toweling her short-cropped gray hair. With his vision blurred, she still looked like the frizzy-haired law student he’d made love to in the pouring rain on Kershaw Beach.

“Eyelash.”

“Let me see.” She pushed him down on to the bed. “Look at the ceiling,” she said as she straddled him.

Sidney could feel the dampness of her pubic hair seeping into his suit pants. It was audit review day so he’d gone with the charcoal-gray pinstripe. His serious suit.

“It’s just water, Sidney.”

“What? I didn’t say anything.”

She peered into his eye and then gently brushed away the lash. “There. All better.”

Sidney blinked. “It still feels like something’s in there.”

“Phantom eyelash syndrome,” she said. She stroked the side of his face and then traced his lips with her finger. “Hey, your lip bump is gone. When did it disappear?”

“What?”

“The bump you had from when you split your lip in that bar fight in college.”

He ran his tongue over the edge of his lip. She was right, the bump was gone. He hadn’t noticed. “That happened in the junior high cafeteria. I pulled Todd Wilbur’s fruit loop.” Sidney laughed and ran his hands down Marcia’s smooth back. “Todd jerked his head back and split my lip. Bled all over my macaroni and cheese.” He squeezed her butt as he squinted at the clock on the nightstand to see if there was enough time.

She pulled her hand back. “When we met, you told me the scar was from a brawl at that dive where all the freaks and bikers hung out.” Marcia’s eyebrows were now teepeed with that little-kid worried look Sidney knew so well.

“No bar fight. Just Todd’s fat head.” Sidney brought his hand to her breast and teased her nipple. She knocked his hand away.

“You lied.”

“That was forty years ago and I was a horny college kid.”

“All those boring MBAs. I thought you were the wild one.”

“I’m a CPA.”

“But I always figured you had a fury that simmered below the surface. But…”

“What?”

“There’s nothing simmering, is there?” She rolled off the bed and tucked the towel under her armpits.

“Marcia, come on.” Sidney grabbed a tie from his closet. The patterned burgundy, colorful, but conservative.

As he worked on his tie, Marcia sat at her makeup table and began to yank the brush through her hair as though she were trying to rip it out. She stopped brushing and stared at his reflection. “What else have you lied to me about, Sidney?”

Sidney dimpled his tie and tightened the knot. “I have a partner’s meeting tonight,” he said, “so I’ll be late.”

Len Joy lives in Evanston, Illinois. Recent work has appeared in Annalemma, Johnny America, Boston Literary Magazine, Eunoia Review, Pindeldyboz, LITnIMAGE, Hobart, 3AM Magazine, Righthand Pointing, Dogzplot, Slow Trains, The Foundling Review and The Daily Palette (Iowa Review). He has recently completed a novel American Jukebox, about a minor league baseball player whose life unravels after he fails to make it to the major leagues. His blog Do Not Go Gentle&#8230 chronicles his pursuit of USA Triathlon Age-Group Championships.

The “bump” functions as an interesting central image, the kind William Carlos Williams perhaps was talking about when he said “so much depends upon…” If indeed “The Bump” depends upon “the bump,” how did you go about making “The Bump” depend upon “the bump,” and how do you see “The Bump” (or not see “The Bump”) depending upon such an image? And what else might “The Bump” depend upon? The “bump” is an “image” that isn’t there. Like the dog that didn’t bark. We can lose something in a relationship and not even notice that’s it’s gone. It’s not the bump that’s important, it’s the not noticing.

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