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The Short and Shorter at the Heart of It
   by Carolyn Moore

     You considered renting a tux but settled for new contact lenses. Friends complain you walk by without seeing them nod or wave. Last week you walked into a metal pole and still bear the bruises in your groin.
     The suburb's traffic hums like homing bees. To the west, the pink strafe of clouds fades. Soon the first full moon of summer will rise to mark the ritual you've observed each year since your divorce. You sit in the lone lawn chair your ex left you, a bottle of Pinot Gris at the ready to toast the moon.
     It is nearly the time for your lovely neighbor to float from her back door to check her garden. In late April you heard her cry of dismay when she discovered her roses had fallen prey to deer, the last remnants of this new development's wooded past. She didn't see you bearing witness that night. Yet ever since, you've done her a service, something you read about in a gardening magazine back when you took more interest in ground covers and low maintenance shrubs. Either dog or human urine applied near plants will ward off deer. You don't own a dog.
     Tonight you will claim your reward. She'll waft to her roses in the black caftan she's taken to wearing of late. You'll hail her, explain the occasion, and invite her to join you for a glass of wine. You'll cede her the sole lawn chair with comic gallantry. The moon will do the rest. Her response will bring tumbling down what remains of your Jericho reserve. It now occurs to you that your annual ritual of greeting the solstice moon has been practice for this return of love.
     She sits in the darkening room, watching him through the window. She does not turn on lights and give her position away. At hand are a battery-powered spotlight and the bullhorn borrowed from her sister, a soccer coach.
     The first time she caught sight of him urinating on her roses, she quickly retreated into the house, hoping he had not seen her. When she discovered this act was habitual, she could not stop thinking of it.
     At first, his nightly secret repulsed her. Eventually, it intrigued her. It seemed the feral rite of a man marking the territory of his intentions. And why not? She still drew the random male glance as she steered her cart through the produce department. It was clear he lived alone, unattached. They shared both a property line and solitude.
     When he failed to acknowledge her nod and smile at the mailboxes last week, her hopes curdled into loss. He squinted at his feet, ashamed to meet her eye. She was a fool and he was nothing but a serial urinator. How dare he stalk her thoughts and longings all spring. Tonight she would free herself from his secret, vile abuse. And why wait to catch him in the act? She rose and took up the spotlight and bullhorn, tools for clearing this distraction from the path to love.

Copyright©2004 Carolyn Moore

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