Two Stories by Glen Pourciau


POWER OF SPEECH

I’m picking out flowers for my wife in the floral department of the grocery store where I regularly shop, not a special occasion, desire to please her, and I see a guy who works at checkout approaching me. For some time he’s been getting on my nerves, always with his smirk as he scans my purchases, always asking questions about what I’m doing for the weekend. Any big plans? he asks. I imagine sarcastic commentary running through his mind during the whole transaction. Thank you much, he says as he tears off my receipt and hands it to me, but his tone doesn’t fit the words. I’m just about to put my wife’s flowers in the shopping cart when he walks up with his smirk and says: You must be in a lot of trouble. Do I owe him an explanation? Is he looking for a reaction from me, and if he is, why? Does he do this with other people? I’m overloaded with questions and resentment and don’t know what to say, which feeds the monster. I guess I’ve hit a nerve, he says. Are you looking for trouble? I ask him, surprised when I say it. Am I looking for trouble? he asks, laughing. Thorn in your foot, but you should talk to the person getting the flowers about your pain. I push my basket forward, but the guy follows me and grips my arm. Are you disrespecting me? he asks. I try to engage you in conversation and your only words are to ask if I’m looking for trouble. Have you ever given me a straight answer when I checked you out and tried to have a friendly chat with you? Have you done anything but ignore me? You have boundary issues, he tells me, stepping closer. Don’t you owe me more respect than some snotty, superior question? You’re looking down at me right now. He draws himself up. Those flowers are overpriced, he warns, you’d do better somewhere else. Am I connecting with you? Power of speech, he says and walks away.


SEE

Wasted, a few wisps of hair on my head, it has taken over. One light on over the hospital bed, alone in the room. I see her step through the doorway and stop, not wanting to come any closer. It has been many, many years, but she can tell I recognize her. She glares at me, wanting to remember me this way, unable to bear the sight of me. As her glare reaches its peak, she leaves. My wife will be back soon, walking through the doorway. I shut my eyes. I can’t let her see me.



Glen Pourciau’s collection INVITE won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. His stories have been published by AGNI Online, the Antioch Review, Epoch, New England Review, the Paris Review, and other magazines.