Imajean by Maura Yzmore

Fiction

As if the hardwood floor were ice, Jake skated in his socks across the family room and into the dining area. He plopped onto his chair, just as his mother Jean had finished serving dinner to his father and siblings. She went back into the kitchen to get a plate for Jake.

“So, how was school today?” asked Jean, as she finally sat down.

Jake picked up a single green bean with his fork, his nose wrinkled in mild disgust. “Ben said today that his parents were getting a divorce.”

All the air left Jean’s lungs, as if someone had punched her in the gut. She took a slow, deep breath.

“Oh? How come?” said Jean.

Jake shrugged. “I don’t know. Ben’s dad bought a new house.” He placed the green bean in his mouth and started chewing.

Jean’s shoulders and neck tightened.

“Is Ben doing OK?”

“I think so,” said Jake, then loudly sucked in a mouthful of mashed potatoes. “He said the other house was pretty cool.”

Jean’s husband showed no interest in the conversation. He was focused on pouring a thick stream of creamy horseradish over his pork chop. He loved creamy horseradish and put it on everything.

*

For years, Jean has been relying on her imagination to get her through having sex with her husband. In her mind, various other men replaced the man she had married, the man whose body had grown large and soft, and for whom she had long ago lost all desire. However, he was kind, loving, and a great father. They had a solid marriage and Jean could not justify leaving him. In fact, she loved her husband like a friend or, perhaps, like something between a brother and a puppy. Yet, she wanted neither a brother nor a puppy between her legs, and she knew that one of these days her imagination might no longer suffice.

Jean did not feel guilty when she realized that she was ready—perhaps eager—to cheat on her husband. She did feel a bit guilty over not feeling guilty, and she enjoyed imagining that this made her deep and complicated.

*

Ben’s father, Dave, was tall and lean. He reminded Jean of a racehorse. Jean would sometimes catch herself looking at the back of his head, his neck, and his arms, as they cheered on their kids who played several sports together. She followed the green blood vessels in Dave’s neck and imagined them pulsating in the rhythm of his heartbeat. She liked how the veins along his forearms interwove with the muscles that gently moved under his skin.

Dave’s hands looked like they had known manual labor, but these days he was mostly pushing paper. He and Jean talked about their jobs, their kids, and various sporting activities. Jean enjoyed imagining that there was a spark between them.

And now Dave might be single.

*

Jean’s friend Sophie extended her leg to stop the cat from getting outside, as she cracked the door open to let Jean in.

“Hi, how’ve you been?” asked Sophie, as Jean squeezed through.

“Oh, you know, fine. Same old.”

Sophie picked up the cat with one arm and motioned with the other to Jean to come into the kitchen. Jean settled on a stool by the kitchen island, and Sophie poured them each a cup of coffee.

“Now, have you heard about Dave and Lisa?” Sophie grinned like a mischievous child. “They’re getting a divorce.”

Jean’s shoulders and neck tightened.

“Yeah, Jake told me the other day.” She focused on her coffee, cradling the cup with both hands. “Did you talk to either of them? Do you know what happened?”

“Well, they’ve been estranged for quite some time,” said Sophie, “keeping up appearances for the kids’ sake. Then, all of a sudden, Dave pulled the plug. Lisa’s pretty pissed, but not surprised. It seems that Dave’s had a girlfriend for a while now.”

All the air left Jean’s lungs, as if someone had punched her in the gut. She took a slow, deep breath.

For a brief moment, Jean let herself imagine the back of Dave’s head, his neck, and his arms. She could see the veins along his forearms, interweaving with the muscles that gently moved under his skin.

On her way home, Jean remembered that they were out of creamy horseradish. She stopped by the grocery store and bought the expensive kind.

 

Biography
Maura Yzmore (pen name) is a professor in the physical sciences at a large university in the U.S. Her short fiction has appeared in The Fiction Pool, Storyland, Microfiction Monday Magazine, and elsewhere. She is an editor at 101 Words. Maura can be found at maurayzmore.com or on Twitter as @MauraYzmore.

Image: Alex Munsell