The Distance Between The Fowlers

By John O’Keefe

“Well why not? It’s not as if you would do any of the work. We have the staff!”

The husband lay in the bed, his eyes tracing patterns on the ceiling. 

“Janie and Frank have two already! If we keep putting this off, people will start to ask questions.”

“Maybe one day,” the husband mumbled.

“Really? That’s all you have to say?”

He sighed and shook his head. “Why don’t you do something to take your mind off it? Go for a drive in the new Mercedes. It has that new Burmester sound system you were so interested in.” He pulled the keys from his pocket and dangled them before her.

“You can’t be serious,” she said.

“I just don’t understand what you expect from me. The DOJ is down my neck over that bullshit with the media division, and Joseph’s attorney, the damn–”

“I can’t hear this again,” she said, waving him off, turning and heading for the door. He listened as her footsteps faded in the distance.

 Above her in the hall, a baroque chandelier glistened on the African Blackwood walls, and to her right, an antique console table featured priceless vases and china. Turning the corner, she entered the kitchen where marble countertops stretched across the room, reflecting the glow of the pendant lights overhead. A row of stainless steel appliances stood like sentinels, and a large central island served as a hub for culinary work. 

Standing beside the sink, she pulled a pack of Parliaments from the drawer and lit one, stuffing the pack in her pocket. Puffing on the cigarette, she walked to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of Dom Pérignon. She pulled a flute from the cabinet and filled it, drinking as she crossed the kitchen and walked through the backdoor. 

In the garden, the air was hot and the champagne was refreshing in her throat.  Blue water poured from a white marble fountain before her, while a gray oak tree graced shade to the garden’s right side. In the beds, red tomatoes, green cucumbers, and orange bell peppers were vibrant, while above, the sky was painted on a canvas of purple and orange, the sun descending beneath the horizon. She glanced down and appreciated the smooth emerald lawn, the fragrance of freshly cut grass filling the crisp air. With a sigh, she lifted the cigarette to her lips and savored the final drag, then stomped it out in the grass, noticing something at her feet. 

Small, shriveled, and alone in the short green blades was a pink baby bird. She squatted down and stared at it, naked and exposed save for a single black feather atop its barren skull. 

“Where’s your momma?” she asked.

The bird chirped.

Mah-ma. Where’s momma?”

The bird chirped.

“Me? No. I’m not Momma.”

The bird chirped.

She smiled, extending her hand towards it. To her surprise, the bird made no attempt to retreat, inviting her touch as she grazed the soft expanse of its skull. Then suddenly, a deep voice broke through the tranquility. 

“Will you not run from me?” he sighed, stepping out the back door. “I’m sorry.”

She teetered at the sound of his voice, placing her hand on the ground for support. She stood, brushed her legs, and turned to face him. “I’m not running,” she stated, crossing her arms.

“Okay. But I’ve just been busy. You know that.”

“Yes, you’ve been busy.” 

“You can say that all you want, but you know it’s true. You know I’d do anything for you,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. Above them, a plane flew overhead, the atonal hum of the engine choking the air. 

Pulling the cigarettes from her pocket, she looked at him and chuckled, lighting one as she stared into his vacant gaze.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” he said, rubbing his forehead. “It ages you – turns your skin to leather. How many times do I have to say it?”

You age me, Brian. I’m not some doll for you to flaunt around for your public facade.”

“Don’t be dramatic,” he said, waving her off.

“I’m not being dramatic, Brian. These are normal things I ask for! You always said you would give me the world,” she said, slapping her thigh. “This is not everything. This house, this yard, the cars – this is not the world.” 

Crossing his arms across his chest, he looked down at the grass, his eyes locked on a single yellow blade amidst the sea of green. 

“Are you even listening, Brian?”

He shook his head and grimaced, then shifted his gaze to the bird, his countenance tightly wound. He took a deep breath, sighed, then turned to glance up at the oak tree beside them. 

“There’s a nest in the tree. Do you want me to get the ladder?” he asked.  

“I’ll take care of it,” she said, puffing on the cigarette, looking down at the bird. He shook his head and turned away, walking through the back door. 

When he left, she knelt down and stared at the bird, watching as it chirped and squealed, its eyes round and black as it gazed into her face like a living mirror. With a heavy sigh, she scooped it up in her hands and looked over at the tree, watching as a robin swooped through the air and landed in the nest with its chicks. 

*   *   *

John P. O’Keefe is an experienced musician residing in the colorful city of Burlington, Vermont. With his band Blackwater, John has performed in various venues across the state, ranging from the eclectic basement scene of his home city, to nationally recognized venues such as Higher Ground and Nectar’s. John brings a unique literary influence to his music and is excited to express his creativity in a manner yet unseen by enjoyers of his music.

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