Salted Carmel Pretzel

When I returned from the restroom, Salvator had switched places with the server. My husband, two tables away, scribbled orders onto a pad, while Kitty, recent waitress, sucked Salvator’s straw, asked me what’d taken so long.

“My stomach,” I said. “How’s that shake?” “Never ordered this before. You’d like it.”

Salvator refilled water, cleared plates, boxed my leftovers. He brought the bill, a smiley face under the total that looked like a smirking baby. Kitty’s apron snugged his waist, her blouse’s buttons barely hanging on. I left two dollars, less than twenty percent. Salvator’d been stuck on fifteen for- ever. A bit of karma.

Kitty had Salvator’s keys and knew where to find our Outback. She drove, following the exact way Salvator liked, using side streets, avoiding lights. He’d complained once about how I loved the worst routes, hitting the reds like slalom gates. I never drove with him in the car again.

At home, Kitty fled upstairs and turned on the shower. I checked email and ate my tuna melt and pickle. When Kitty took forever to come down- stairs, I went to bed, trying pajamas I’d never worn, their tags still attached. I watched TV until Kitty appeared, nude and smelling like gin, a towel around her head. She pulled on a pair of Salvator’s running shorts and picked up his book from the nightstand, opening to the dog-eared page. She started reading, the book resting on her chest.

I turned over, Kitty’s lamp fighting through my eyelids. I had work in the morning, my last shift until the weekend. After I’d dozed, Kitty poked my shoulder, asked me to look her way.
She pointed to a short paragraph, saying, “I did not see that coming.”

“Of course you didn’t,” I said. I already knew what she’d want from me next.

This story appeared in issue 8.1. Pick up your copy today.

Michael Czyzniejewski is the author of three collections of stories, Elephants in Our Bedroom (Dzanc Books, 2009), Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions (Curbside Splendor, 2012) and the forthcoming I Will Love You for the Rest of My Life: Breakup Stories (Curbside Splendor, 2015), as well as the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 2010. He is an assistant professor at Missouri State University and editor of Moon City Review.