Two Micro Stories | Lauren Dennis
Your Dulcimer’s Too Loud
I had found the perfect outlet. It was quiet, but I could sing to it. I could perform; I could pick it up whenever I wanted. It lived at my house. I would pick it up in the evening when the girls were just falling asleep.
I had reduced my creativity to a small wooden box that produced pleasant sounds. I used to star in plays, ate my mind raw with their personalities, let them invade me pleasantly, occupying my mind, body, and soul until I could find another play. But plays were taking up too much of our time; the actors were too “obnoxious. I was encouraged not to hang out with them, and how could I stand them anyway?
I began to write, practiced my art quietly, non-performatively. Sublimated my creativity to the page, and produced pleasant click-clacks across the keys. I started a writing group. Then writing became a threat, in a way that the quiet click-clack wasn’t. Other people took our time. Our time was precious, you said, and why was I being so self-indulgent. I was a woman who had more pressing concerns, like her kids, and being there for her husband’s constant complaints.
Then I discovered the Mountain Dulcimer, found out Joni Mitchell played one. I met up with a man in overalls and a dusty green truck up on 104th Street. He said his wife had attained it on some kind of artsy whim. Maybe his wife was dead. Maybe he had an easier time without her. The dulcimer had not been used much. We laughed about his silly (possibly dead) wife.I paid him $125, and he drove away.
Then you and I separated, and you had rights to the bedroom for way too long. On a day I had the bedroom, I brought out my sweet dulcimer, dusted her off, and re-tuned her. You told me to be quieter. I wasn’t using a pic, I said. You told me it was bothering the girls. It wasn’t. They said they loved it, that it gave them good dreams. You made a dulcimer curfew. You told me how long I could play. I stopped my fingers from working through us, emitting small sounds to replace the big ones. You told me my dulcimer was still too loud.
It’s hard because he’s such a mess, and he knows what a mess I am. It is one of the reasons we’re not married anymore and also one of the reasons we loved each other. When he comes to pick up the girls today, he says words having to do with needing suitcases, but this is all I hear:
I’m nervous to take the girls to Mexico by myself. We used to do this together.
He stands on my front steps, steps he used to walk up every day when we lived together. He is describing luggage he needs for their travel, and his hand gestures are terse and caring at the same time. I’ve always been attracted to his hands. They slice through the air and form several rectangular shapes, and then it starts to rain. I look at him getting wet and laugh and tell him there are no such bags. We both stand there. What happened to make it so that we are standing in the rain, his motor running in a driveway that used to be ours, our kids in the car, but now he’s going by himself to a place we used to go together?
I leave him in the rain to run downstairs. I want to answer his unspoken questions. I return with four small suitcases. He tells me none of them resemble the ones he was thinking about. Today, I am not annoyed by this. I think that if I can somehow find what he is describing, even though we both know it doesn’t exist, maybe we will know more about why we aren’t together anymore. I make two more trips downstairs, him in the rain, me with subsequently worse and worse excuses for luggage. I shrug after my last trip. I wait for him to say:
This was so much easier when we were together.
He doesn’t. I wave to the girls in the car. His new car’s tinted windows hide their wave. They drive away. I put away six empty suitcases and watch the rain.
About the Author:
Lauren Dennis is a mother of two, violently fighting against the confinement that may or may not come with that title. She writes because she has to, and has been published in Scarlet Leaf Review, The Flash Fiction Press, daCuhna, and Microfiction Monday Magazine. She was the featured experimental writer for OPEN: Journal of Arts and Letters’ Theme “Tranche de Vie.” She has received formal critique and feedback from the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in Denver, Colorado, where she resides.