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You’ll Never Find Another

by Lydia Copeland
 

Last night I dreamed I slept with a man who wasn’t Tom. He whipped my body with a guitar string that left thin, stinging cuts in places where Tom would see and know I’d been unfaithful. The man was someone I knew. A former college professor. A shit in real life too.

I was in my house in the dream but it had extra rooms. Nearly every night I dream of houses with hidden rooms. After a few dreams, I know the rooms are there and begin to look for them, long hallways, doors in walls. I walk around in a green cardigan, opening cabinets, sliding curtains. A handful of lentils in my sweater pocket.

This morning I think about how good I have it with Tom.

I spoon mashed bananas, my mouth moving with the baby’s. My face taking on his expression. Tongue short like a parakeet tongue. The round cap of a mushroom. Tom laughs when he catches me in the act.

You can’t chew for him, he says.

The baby’s name is James. But we’ve started calling him Jimmy.

Jimmy swallows, moves forward and says, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh!

There is a glob of banana–like a loogie–on his hedgehog bib.

I’ve tried hard not to lose myself in Jimmy. To keep some sense of my old life just as people told me I should when I was pregnant.

But I can’t stop staring at him. Wondering if he’ll get the loose kneecaps that were such a problem in my childhood. So easily dislocated. Will he get Tom’s tenderness? Bringing cups of water. Valentines on random days.

I still enjoy walks in the woods. The Paris Review.

Shower sex is the only sex Tom and I have lately. We can make noise there while Jimmy sleeps, and I can pretend to be someone else. Someone anonymous and less attached. Tom slips in behind me after I’ve warmed a while, and I lean against the back wall, the tile slick under my elbows. I let my mind unspool into a flash of faces. Mostly women and men with jobs in offices. But sometimes I think of sea foam on a shore. Or resin hardening into amber. Yesterday morning I thought of the Andean bone cave someone found in the basement of their home in Mexico.

Skulls petrified to the wall.

It has rained and rained. Rained for weeks on end, the way it does every February in East Tennessee, the way it did last February when we lost the giant oak, its root system a sponge of yellow fungus. The garden fence has lost its grip in the ground. Posts fall over like collapsed flowers. Two have snapped–rain-rotted–in the earth, and this weekend I’ll repair them with a set of stakes Tom fashioned in his woodshop. The stakes are stunning, as long as my arm with a picket point at the bottom. The kind of stakes that make vampires nervous.

Jimmy inches forward more. Crying now. He wants the banana, but he cannot figure out how to work his tongue. How to keep the food in and not push it out. I feel his frustration.

Let me have a go, Tom says. I give him the miniature spoon, the bowl of banana. We switch places.

It’s mid-morning and I’m already tired. Ready to fall into a quick sleep. My arm across Tom’s chest. In a dream world, dizzy with secret bathrooms, corridors and landings. I walk through tile by tile, plank by plank, stud by stud. Finding the prize of an unsung room with drawers from someone else’s life. Tissues in a box. Flowers on the wall.

 

Lydia Copeland Gwyn’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Elm Leaves Journal, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, the Florida Review, JMWW, Gone Lawn, and others. Her book of flash fiction, Tiny Doors, is available from Another New Calligraphy. She is an instruction librarian living in East Tennessee with her husband and children.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “You’ll Never Find Another”?

I usually write most of my stories within a day or two, and sometimes if I’m lucky the majority of the story comes forth in one fell swoop.I might tinker around with a word here or there or add a sentence of two of background information somewhere.

With this story I had to sit with it a few days. I was having trouble transitioning into the last paragraph of the story as you see it now. I kept writing transitions and new paragraphs trying to connect ideas, but everything I wrote failed to make that transition. I decided to sleep on it and let the story stew for a few days. This waiting period turned into a little over a week. When I came back to the story, I knew as soon as I read it that I didn’t need to write anything new. I just needed to rearrange the paragraphs. Originally the opening paragraph with the dream lover and the guitar string appeared mid-story. Opening with the dream, and rearranging a couple of other paragraphs fixed my transition issue completely.

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