Morning Sickness

by | Nov 21, 2011 | Flash Fiction | 0 comments

On the morning of her scheduled abortion, the landlord confronts her in the corridor outside her apartment. She is locking the door behind her, struggling to hold back the bile that has been churning in her throat for four long weeks.

“Jeanie.”

She cringes at the sound of his footsteps, but doesn’t begin to shake until they fall silent. Breathing deep, she digs her nails into her palms and swallows the grimace threatening to escape her lips.

“Yes, Mr. Mierkowitz?”

He stands between her and the stairs. There is no other exit.

“Jeanie, I don’t mind that you keep a cat, but I do mind the barnyard smell.”

She doesn’t look up to meet his gaze, the piercing blue eyes set amidst crow’s feet, the perpetually-troubled graying brow.

“The catbox is clean, Mr. Mierkowitz.”

“Other tenants have been complaining, and I like to keep a clean building. It has to be clean. I don’t care what it takes.”

“The catbox is clean, Mr. Mierkowitz.”

She glances at her watch. 8:30. The bus comes at 8:35, the stop two blocks down. Maybe it will be running late today.

“I understand that you’re a student and you’re very busy, but that’s no excuse, Jeanie. When one tenant neglects their unit, the whole building suffers the consequences. I rented the unit to you because I thought you were responsible.”

Quietly, she ventures, “I have a bus to catch, Mr. Mierkowitz.”

“And another thing — that boyfriend of yours—“

“He…he won’t be coming by again, Mr. Mierkowitz.” She clutches her belly without realizing it, an ache slowly spreading from groin to just below the navel. Her stomach heaves, just a little. “Mr. Mierkowitz, I have a doctor’s appointment. I’m not feeling well. I’m going to miss my bus.”

“All right.” His voice does not soften. His boots remain firmly planted where he stands, posture stiff. “All right. But just so long as I don’t get any more complaints about that cat.”

“I’ll clean the box again as soon as I get home.”

“See that you do.”

She squeezes past him, down the narrow corridor. She doesn’t start running until her feet hit the pavement.

From up the street she can see the idling bus. The red light turns green, but it stays fixed in place. The driver waits, scowling.

Jeanie reaches the open door, and before she can retrieve her fare or issue a breathless thanks to the impatient driver, vomits down the storm drain.

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