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Ken Poyner

February 2, 2015

The Rightist


After our visits, my wife is daggers, thorns, steel wool and lye.  She is the rough and ire of a gap toothed wood file.  I do not care to visit that neighbor’s house with her in tow, but one does have to be sociable. The man is pleasant enough.  The three of us can carry a conversation as easily as a bell choir can ring out a scale.  We have enough in common that our relationship has symmetry, yet each of us can be safe in our own personal pools of expertise.

It is the man’s wife who creates my problem.  In her tank on the indoor/outdoor wet/dry carpet, she bobs across the length of the glass nearest where my wife and I sit warily, pushing her head above the water to speak or listen more closely.  The thin mid-lid of her eyes roll back when she edges out of the damp; and at times she will brace the crook of her arm on the top ledge of her enveloping ten foot by six foot by eight foot aquarium.

What she has to say is no trouble.  You can hear, in the background of her practiced voice, the squeal and pop that would be her native tongue; but it has been left with the coral and anemones, and coastal English is her tongue now.  She has become quite elegant in the tank, regally balancing against the weight of the water with small and curiously dainty vacillations of her tail.  She folds at the hips and leverages the current of the tank’s aerator.  Her shoulders lead, and she now and again will place her hand flat on the glass, pushing herself into a better study of the world outside.

None of this upsets my wife, and we are all quite engaged with the adaptability and finesse this woman, while relaxed in her tank, can display.  If this were all there were to it, I could stand being neighborly.  But soon my wife will catch me, as I cannot stop myself, watching the woman languorously draw her huge, bare breasts across the glass of the unsympathetic aquarium, then flatten without mercy those wonderful masses against the restraining clear barrier.  I try not to let my mouth drop open, and I look away, at least in small krill-like catches.

She hangs there, as though affixed by the confusion of skin on glass, and I shiver, only a little, but too noticeably to someone who has been watching my reactions at nearly the subatomic level since the moment we arrived. I can feel the lead pipe sternness of my wife’s stare foundering ingloriously on the back of my head. She sits deep into the couch and will not be unfolded for any rational purpose.  I can see the hair along her arms rise in attention, dry urchin spikes ready to be set, and I can sense along all my intangibles my near term happiness sinking like a fisherman’s weight set free of its line.

I cannot help myself.  It is not a matter of will.  I react like any man.  It is not as though I harbor any thought of exchange, of an upgrade, or even of comparing one wife to the other.  I have the wife I want, all of her dry and openly mobile.  But when this other man’s wife kicks with the dazzling perpendicular force of her fluke and flares the full felicity of her magnificent ballast against the love-struck glass, no man could look casually away, no man could tolerate the event without his blood shifting lucklessly out of his brain and into his most precious weapon. I am not at fault.

And I go home, expecting to prove to my turbulent wife that there are no residual images to my widened vision yet lingering – and she covers my best efforts in salt, strands me in the shallows of her imagined second place finish.  I reach with both hands, hoping to palm comfort, and they are denied me.  I sleep hugging my side of the bed as though it were the last finger of flotation between me and drowning alone. After months of this, her jealousy continues as fresh as it was with her first rage, with my first unknowing, unavoidable offense. I would prefer the two of us not go to this neighbor’s house together.  But we are all on good terms, and I do not see why I should let suspicion poison our mutual waters.

I am honorable, but my wife acts as though I were but a bottom feeder, ready for anything that might be laid out thoughtlessly before me.  I am not, but soon the entire neighborhood will have me guilty simply from the bile and brine my wife exudes over her socially crafty coffee parties. So I decide I must talk to the man.  I must explain my concerns, the trials my wife puts me through, the spot his wife’s genius lays on my ordinary life.

I must ask him to have the woman house her half that is not scale in some sort of sheath, some bathing suit top, some water friendly vest.  She must understand her gift, and keep it close, keep it secret.  Or at least keep it out of my marriage. I knock on his door repeatedly, knowing from the presence of his car that he is home.  The door sends ripples through the frame and I begin to knock again.  He does not answer at first, but I continue, waves of resolve flowing through me with the force of the slights unjustly sprayed against my husbandly character by my bristling wife.  I have captured, for a few moments, my courage and must press the issue. Those wondrous baubles must be properly veiled. At the last moment of my conviction, he opens the door.

Dripping he stands, a towel wrapped about his hips and held in place with a grasp more like a fist in birth than the coil of an effort at stability, his eyes a dull gray and slow to focus.  A trail of water leads back into the house, down the hall that lies in open view of the front door, and to the tank; where low in one corner, her hair a net of disharmony in agitated water, the man’s wife lies folded over her own fluke, trailing bubbles from the corner of her spent mouth. She peers over her lolling, slightly reddened shoulder at me, and places one hand in half a greeting on the aquarium glass angled nearest my slowly perceiving gaze.

Gathering his own breath in jellyfish snatches, the man distantly, carefully asks what could I possibly want; and only then do I think, for the very first time, of just how back-breakingly small that damn tank is.



Ken Poyner has lately been seen in “Analog”, “Café Irreal”, “Cream City Review”, “The Journal of Microliterature”, “Blue Collar Review”, and many wonderful places.  His latest book of short fiction, “Constant Animals’, is available from his web,, and from   He is married to Karen Poyner: one of the world’s premier power lifters, and holder of more than a dozen current world power lifting records.  They are the parents of four rescue cats, and an energetic fish.


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