The Paper
Sera Yu

I roll on the floor, clutch little bits of carpet. When that doesn’t work, I play dead on the sofa. I do what I can to pass the moment. A moment. “It’s only a moment, only a moment.” I try to imitate a singer. Then back on the floor, breathing again, I notice little things next to my head. I pick up the debris and drop it in the trash. No harm done. Still, I curse while fingering out pieces of hard dog biscuit stuck between my toes. My daughter, halfway down the stairs, watches me in disgust and hops back up to her room. “Do your homework!” I yell behind her, a quarter of a second before her door slams shut.

The clock stops and I don’t notice until fifteen minutes pass with no sign of the hands moving. Then I see that the second hand is running in place. I remove it from the wall and place it on Fanny’s bed made of a velour baby’s blanket and a towel. Fanny moves to the sofa I just warmed up and stares blankly at the big chrome clock. She looks at the wall where the clock used to hang and then down at her bed. “Shut up,” I say, when she starts to get up. She yawns and stretches her legs. I go back to the floor and start doing sit-ups but give up after the third one.

My wife is back in less than an hour, ready to fight again. I hear her keys shaking noisily to find the opening. The clock is now completely dead, even the second hand that had been running in place. She finally opens the door and drags her suitcase inside with clothes sticking out from unzipped compartments. Her hair is wild like an eighties rocker. I assume she went for a ride with all the windows down as usual. But this time, I suspect a pivot in my wife’s level of tolerance. What she doesn’t know is that I too am fed up, that I am preparing to let go of our life, even our daughter, Kate.

“How was the ride?” I ask, not expecting an answer. She steps up to me and waves a piece of paper violently in my face, scraping my eye before letting it drop. It lands between the coffee table and loveseat. I instinctively go to retrieve it. Fanny gets to it first, putting one paw firmly down on top of the paper. Fanny is small and quick but bigger than your average five-pound chihuahua. “Bad girl, Fanny,” I say. I snatch the paper from under the dog’s paw, making it tear into two uneven pieces. My wife gazes at me a moment, unblinking, still as a mannequin. The dog, smarter than most children, runs away, and I am alone with her, tears running down my wounded eye. When I open my mouth to utter a sound, my wife, still in her heels, steps away. She follows the dog up the stairs, sinking her sharp heels into the carpet. Squish, squish, they go. With every step, I feel a pang in my chest. Slowly, I hear my daughter’s creepy little girl voice. “Is he still acting crazy? Are you hurt?” I ponder the questions as if they are my own as I ball up the paper and drop it in the trash.

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