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GLOVES by Robert Stuart Powers

He had a dream, he says, about the rest of their lives on another planet rich with tech indistinguishable from magic. On his back, he holds his hands toward the ceiling, the cusp of dawn filling their disheveled bedroom, and describes jazz hands-ing away the deep gulf of scar tissue rippling down her body’s left side, from scalp to ankle, where the asphalt carried away almost everything. He was wearing these iridescent gloves that could remodel skin like wet clay. They could afford them because their parents (in the dream) were dead and left them money.

He rolls back over. You were so happy, he says into his pillow.

You need to get ready for school, she says. Your kids need you.

Her fitful sleep, which medically requires both shoulders to be flat on their broken mattress, has been the same since she woke in the E.R. with no broken bones or ligaments. Since four a.m. she’d been tracking a fresh galaxy of stains slowly spreading on the sallow stucco above. She’d have to call the landlord again about the druggie upstairs neighbors’ cracked tub before the rusty water started pooling and the pregnant ceiling shape came back, ready to burst.

I can’t go to work, he says. I should quit. I should be with you all day.

She knows this is the end, that he will never forgive himself. After five years together it was his scooter, his hard right turn down the steep hill by the chemical plant after happy hour for their anniversary, his abusive ex’s helmet that clapped the curb and saved her life. Without a scratch on him, he passed out before he could call 9-1-1. Tell me more, she says.

What? he says, half-back asleep and soaring through burning skies on the other world.

About the gloves, she says. Tell me what it feels like to use them.

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