Dan is in the backyard in the late afternoon, his wine carafe that was once a milk bottle sitting empty now on the blue tablecloth even though he was supposed to wait for his wife. What the hell. He can decant some more wine, twist off the cap, and pretend it’s the good stuff. The radio is playing some jazz tune he can’t recognize but likes. In the time it takes for him to step into the kitchen to unscrew the cap so it will be ready for when Marci gets back from teaching class, two things happen. The first is a rat climbs into the milk bottle, and the second is the announcer says troops are being sent into Vietnam. Dan, who saw Ardennes, who was stationed in Seoul, who has been to so many other places with names he wants to forget, has been following the news for months now and has been waiting for and dreading this moment. They will not want him this time at his age, but he still feels like that little rat trapped in glass with the cheap smelling wine. The animal must be coated in it. It is upside down and scratching around, stuck in its greed for whatever calories might cling to droplets. Dan clicks off the radio and grabs the bottle, feeling the struggle inside of it. His first thought is to throw it as hard as he can against the corner of the garage, watch the little bastard struggle in the shards, but he can’t somehow, so he walks it back to the alley, and holds it over the other side of the fence upside down. When it doesn’t fall out immediately, he pats the bottom like it’s ketchup, and when he hears the creature land with a squeak and then move off, he tosses the bottle in the trash can, goes back to get two glasses and the wine, and waits for Marci to get back home so they can get the long quiet weekend started right.
John Brantingham: "I was the first poet laureate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, and my work has been featured in hundreds of magazines and in Writer’s Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. I have eleven books of poetry and fiction including my latest fiction collection Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). I teach at Mt. San Antonio College."
The Ekphrastic Review
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