Two stories from Kim Chinquee

You Have a Leak

I came back from the library to find a man underneath the cabinet where the sink was. I knew it was a man, by the boots, by the way the legs were sprawled like that. It wasn’t my house. I was just at my boyfriend’s until I had to go back to New York, where I taught geometry to children.

“Ahem,” I said, still in my coat, my scarf, my boots making a puddle beneath me.

The man ducked out with his wrench. He looked exactly like my boyfriend: blond and blue-eyed, bright-lipped, dimpled.

“You have a leak,” he said. “Your drain’s broke.”

He even talked the same. Gruff. The voice of a man.

I pulled my cell phone from my pocket, dialed my guy at work, but he wasn’t answering.

“It’s clogged,” the man said. “Looks like meat, or paper.”

He wore a plaid shirt. He took off his hat and wiped his forehead, asked if I lived there.

“The drain is fine,” I said. “I doubt you should be here.”

“Five-twenty seven, right?” he said.

It was a small town, about four thousand people. Everyone seemed to know everyone.

He looked in the fridge then, said he was thirsty.

“Your boyfriend,” he said. “He’s a friend of mine. Said to check the drainpipe.

He took a drink from the water pitcher, just like my boyfriend had that morning, putting the spout to his mouth. He’d woken up feverish but decided to go to work anyway. “My name’s Joe,” he said. My boyfriend.

I dialed him again. He worked at a bank and sometimes had appointments.

“I think the drain’s fine,” I said.

He said he’d played with some wires. “Found a mouse,” he said. “I chased it out.”

Joe sat on a chair by the window. I couldn’t help myself, finding him handsome.

I thought about that Sunday. My boyfriend said something about a friend of his, but I was sure it wasn’t this guy.

I told him he should go.

He said he was leaving. He told me it was fixed now. He grabbed his jacket and went out, blowing me a kiss from the driveway.



When I get home from the airport, I make tea, turning on the forecast to see the blizzard still coming. I’ve come from Mexico–where I vacationed with a guy, mostly doing beach stuff. Mostly he turned grumpy, complaining about prices– before ordering at whichever casa, he’d ask for labels, costs, which made eating impossible. He even started to talk weird, his voice going high for the entire duration. He wore the same red the whole time, resembling a dartboard. He wanted hand massages. He was a cellist. He didn’t live anywhere near me.

We strolled the Malecon, where vendors called us newlyweds, tried to sell us things and said we should look forward. The sky was hot. I noticed pastel buildings like the coral where the boat went. We rode the bus with locals: me holding the rail, bending to stay upright. I put on my bikini, jumping into waves, tasting the salt. I drank like an ocean.

He was worried we wouldn’t beat the storm, so we came back early. Yay, I said to him, when we made it, still tipsy from the Pina Colada, tired from the action–in the bedroom, he got kinky, wanting to film things. I was surprised I let him. Then he cried, though mostly on the down parts.

When he got me a cab at baggage, he waved and said goodbye, his voice at its highest. He stepped in for a kiss. Honey, I said. I’m not sure what I felt then.

Now I watch for the storm the TV man said has already been to the west. I see the same old cars, those same bare trees, that same sign asking for tenants. I live high up. I look at the windows. The brick seems to frame them.

I hear my cell phone’s ringtone of a phone ring.

I haven’t known him long. I’d never been anywhere tropical.

The snow starts to come. It looks like it’s hailing.

I focus, see a man. He looks like a statue.

Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections, Oh Baby and Pretty. Her collection, Pistol, is forthcoming with Ravenna Press’s Triple Series.
She lives in Buffalo, NY.

Photograph by Jessie Carty