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Things that should stay hidden

by Anna Peerbolt


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Anna is a webmaster, bookkeeper, and writer living in Oregon with her husband and a couple of large white dogs. Her flash and short stories have appeared in Drunken Boat, Prick of the Spindle, Apollo's Lyre, The Legendary, Long Story Short, DOGZPLOT, and elsewhere online.


George hides a coffee cup and a fifth of vodka in the cupboard over the workbench in the garage. He thinks I don’t know about it. I check it almost daily, so I know he goes through a fifth every three to four days. Bad enough to give me anxiety headaches. Amber hides her birth control pills under five stuffed animals, a Barbie and a Wettums doll in her old toy box in the back of her closet. She thinks no one knows about them, but I check them every week nervous she’ll forget to take them. So far, so good. Toby hides a pack of cigarettes under his socks in his bureau. I’m amazed he doesn’t know I found them. Who the hell does he think does his laundry and puts it away? He’s smoking a pack every two days. Not so good.

If I told George what Amber and Toby are doing, he’d confiscate both pills and cigs. Amber would either run away or, devoid of pills, get pregnant. Nine months later, I’d have a baby again in the house. Not something I’d want, but an abortion is probably out of the question. Though I’d considered it, George never would, and Amber, who knows what a seventeen year old thinks?

Toby would get a lecture from George, who only gave up smoking three years ago. I remember distinctly that he used to laugh when Toby, not yet five, pulled a cigarette from the pack and pretended to smoke. I quit six years ago when Toby was seven, but my father has never quit and Toby adores him. Says he wants to be an electrician, just like Grand-dad. Good old Grand-dad did some other things, not so nice, like kicking the neighbor’s dog and fucking my cousin Elaine. I saw them in the basement playroom. His face red and eyes rolled back. She, crying and hanging on to the ping-pong table.

I hide the letters I got from Joe buried under the good dishes we never use. Every so often, I get them out and reread them. I met Joe at the library three years ago. He was checking out a book by the same author I was. We got to talking, went for coffee, and ended up in bed. I really don’t know how it happened. It went on all that summer until Joe left for college. Nothing like “The Graduate” or “Harold and Maude”. Those movies make me sick. We had real sex. I mean the kind that left me tingling for hours after. Not like sex with George at all.

If George found the letters, he’d divorce me, and then it wouldn’t matter if I knew what he and the kids are doing.


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