TOP TEN LIST • by D. Quentin Miller

Top ten reasons Cindy asked Brian for a divorce tonight:

10)  She turned 48 last week. She understands that 48 isn’t exactly the same as 40 or 50 in terms of nice, round ages when people tend to realize they’re not content in their lives and either have to make a change or suffer eternally. Even so, the birthday triggered something in Cindy, who is the kind of person to have things happen to her eight years later or two years earlier than they happen to others. She was very explicit in her instructions to Brian: no gift, no surprise party, not even a cake.

9)  While Brian was eating pizza tonight, he licked the grease off of all ten fingers (or eight fingers and two thumbs, if you’re going to be a prick about it), then dried his fingers on a crumpled napkin, orange with grease, before picking up another slice and repeating the process. All of this is typical Brian-eating-pizza behavior. But Cindy was watching for it tonight and realized that she had made a silent, private vow to break up with him the next time she saw him do it.

8)  Cindy’s politics have shifted, maybe because she is now solidly middle-aged, and she and Brian, who used to see eye to eye, no longer do. Not always. When they drove past a state police cruiser on the highway last month, Brian flipped him off, keeping his hand below the window so only Cindy could see. This behavior, like the pizza-eating slobbery, has happened for years. But this time, Cindy said, “Grow up, Brian: they’re here for our protection.” Brian’s sarcastic glare lingered on her for five seconds or more.

7)  Brian’s hairline has now receded enough to fully expose the mole that it has been hiding for years. Not that Cindy is so motivated by superficial looks, but that mole is distracting. You can no longer look at Brian’s face without feeling your eyes gravitate toward it at some point.

6)  Brian’s been forgetting stuff lately, like the end of sentences he starts, or the name of the current vice-president, or their goddamn anniversary.

5)  The pathetic lewdness of old men is beginning to become evident in Brian, who engages in juvenile humor about young women’s breasts whenever he gets together with his college friend Jason. The lewdness is made more pathetic given what Cindy knows about his infrequent but nonetheless existent bouts of erectile dysfunction.

4)  Cindy looks forward to Brian’s infrequent but nonetheless existent bouts of erectile dysfunction because, let’s face it, she’s tired more often than she’s horny these days. Two days ago she was walking with Janet and crossed paths with a man carrying a bakery box, the classic brown kind, tied with red-and-white string. Janet leaned over and said, sotto voce, “That had to be the best-looking guy I’ve ever seen.” Cindy replied, honestly, “I didn’t notice. I was wondering what kind of cake was in the box.”

3)  The breath of the rescue dog that Brian calls “Buddy” and Cindy calls “Hellhound” is soul-withering. Brian brought Hellhound into their home two years ago with his typical blend of noble ideals and obliviousness to things others find repugnant. When Cindy wants nothing more than to lie on the couch and watch reality TV, Hellhound insists on cuddling close to her, and exhaling that humid, pasty-meaty smell in her face. Three nights ago, when she pushed him off the couch and he emitted an insincere little yelp, Brian had the nerve to say, “Aw, he’s a good boy.”

2)  This morning Cindy thought she was getting her period, one final one for old time’s sake, but she didn’t. Funny they call it a period, she mused, because that word signifies the end of something. In this case, the lack of a period must signify the end of something whereas every other one she ever got had signified a continuation. Funny how bleeding can make you feel alive.

1)  And the number one reason is one that may surprise, but since she’s being honest, she has to admit it: Cindy craved a little drama to spice things up. She knew Brian would resist her request, cry, try to talk her out of it, reaffirm his love for her.

Or thought she knew. When the moment arrived, an hour after the pizza had been devoured, she folded her arms and delivered her request straight: “Brian, I want a divorce.” He merely shrugged and said, “Fine,” patted Hellhound on the head, and brushed back his hair right next to the mole.

D. Quentin Miller has published short fiction in journals such as Flashquake, Prick of the Spindle, Spilling Ink Review, Atticus Review, and The Crescent Review. He teaches American literature and fiction writing at Suffolk University in Boston.

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