The Resident (part fifteen)

Pastel and ink drawing of trees at sunset




Chapter Three






(part fifteen)



“Here. I’ve got plenty. I can go full body if I have to…”

Debra unfurled mosquito netting. “Snug up, Wiss. I know you’re gay.”

“Am I?”

Des would know, keeping track as he did. The thought was saddening. But Wissary inched to her thigh-to-thigh, and let himself be draped.

“So,” she said. “Is it a sort of us against the world vibe? And does that help, give a bigger picture…? Make you remember you aren’t liked, as a couple, by everyone? So you hold it down, you don’t irritate each other to pieces?”

“We absolutely do.” To pieces.

“If it was anyone but you, I’d be dying, by the way.”

“Oh, you’re fine. Because I don’t know at all what you’re talking about.”

“Pairing. Sticking.” She pulled a Chips Ahoy! bag from her duffle. “Open that. I’ve got a thermos of tea. Obviously, Wiss, I sit under billboards. When I was in college, I invented a project of recording moth populations… I was a Hort major, so it was adjacent. Game nights I went to the stadium parking lot, to be near the halogen. But I knew I needed something more immersive. It was like the worst SAD case ever.”

“Is that grammatical?”

“SAD is where people sit in front of UV panels in the winter. Only they are sad. Me… I’d say I’m a happy-go-lucky type. With issues, okay. But I never felt desperate for light unless I was around light, and then it was this crazy magnetic pull.”

“Why tonight?”

“I’m stressed. Why you tonight?”

The question jabbed Wissary in the conscience. Claudine’s diary still weighed the pocket of his cargo sweats…pink camouflage, sold at the gas station’s excellent emporium… [“Mister, those are for girls.” “Well, you be the judge!” (Holding them up.) “Don’t they look like they’ll fit?” (Unexplained cringe from cashier.)]

Debra began to talk.

“Is it possible… To be stuck in a tangle you can’t think your way through, no matter how you come at it? While every sensible person you know says the same sensible thing? I mean, dump Bridge. I can’t. You’re sensible—”

“Not. I’ve turned into a pilfering coward. And so readily. I would say John’s at fault… There! You see, that squint-eyed look.”

“On my face? Who am I to look squint-eyed at anyone?”

“I don’t say blaming John makes sense. I just know it’s true.”

“Then you understand me. So shut up.” She ate three cookies (in a stack); washed them down. “I feel like…why does Bridge need to upgrade his personality for me? I told him yes, I’ll marry you. I’ve told him that twice, so if I chicken out again, who’s the jerk? Mom says force it and find out. Stu says to ask Bridge about some secret. But I look at Bridge looking at me, and…I see kind of a bitch. She changes the rules in the middle of the game. She listens to gossip and launches inquiries. You and Des aren’t married, of course, so you’re going to say that’s where I stepped in it. An oral contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.”


She saw him mouth the words to himself. “No, Wiss, that’s a quote. Just humor.”

“But profound! An oral contract…”

“Have a cookie.”

“There are none left.”






Dark Paneling

Pastel and ink drawing of woodland sceneThe Resident (part sixteen)
















(2022, Stephanie Foster)




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