Signals by Mikki Aronoff
The teacup rattles on its saucer as it crosses the space between wife and husband. The wife raises her eyebrows for a refill, then re-sculpts herself into crumpled sheets that pattern her thin body in asemic scrawls where her nightgown doesn’t cover her.
Her husband holds the cup and wonders how much more her bladder can hold without his having to reach for the bedpan. He slumps at the request for tea but rises from his chair to refill the kettle. While he waits for the boil, he wonders whether they’ll ever actually speak to each other again, as gestures and grunts seem to have replaced words. Not so long ago, full sentences, questions, and answers flew between them like starlings roosting at dusk. Now she glances up at the window, so he opens the curtains. A lift of the chin, and the blinds go up. She scrunches her face at the television, and he reaches for the remote. A sideways shake of the head and he pushes the mute button. A nod changes the channel.
Her husband fills her teacup with boiling water and dunks the teabag four times. No more, no less. He wonders if he’ll be capable of ironing his clothes, of paying bills on time. How long does one boil an egg?
His wife crinkles a smile. She leans back into her damp pillow and wonders what she can signal next to hold him there with her.
Mikki Aronoff’s work appears in New World Writing, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Tiny Molecules, Bending Genres, Milk Candy Review, Gone Lawn, Mslexia, 100 word story, The Citron Review, Atlas and Alice, trampset, jmww, The Offing, and elsewhere. She’s received Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, Best American Short Stories, and Best Microfiction nominations.