The gun was missing. They kept it in the deepest drawer, the third one below the toaster. On Saturday at noon, she absentmindedly dug under the regular dishtowels for the thicker cotton towel they used to cover Kye’s homemade bread, fresh from the oven. Cloth allowed it to breathe while cooling, he said. Her searching fingers registered the lack of cold steel, and her pulse quickened and blood rushed to her face.
Ginny hated guns and had wanted to know little about it. But Clarence—she called him Kye again now that they’d hooked up for a second time—told her it was a Glock 23 Gen 4 and then listed all the specs on it that she’d already forgotten. Glock had a dangerous sound, like “clock,” which reminded her of all the minutes of her life that had already ticked away.
Tonight over dinner (salmon and peas on toast, something Kye called shit on a shingle despite wolfing it down), he’d accused her—her!—of moving the gun. The argument had gone on past Wheel of Fortune, and then he’d stood abruptly during the commercial break when Ginny would notice and walked out, the front door clicking shut behind him. She couldn’t take it if they ruined everything again.
They covered the gun with a stack of neatly folded dish towels in the kitchen drawer below the toaster. Clean ends facing forward. The clean end—Ginny insisted in her mildly annoying nasal whine, which could also be incredibly sexy at the right moment—was the towel’s thick fold, not the thin layers of single edges. Kye thought it stupid of a woman who vacuumed maybe once a month and only under duress to care how a towel faced you from inside a drawer. Yet it secretly pleased him a little. The kitchen was his domain, and he liked things to be spotless. He was the better cook by a mile.
Despite her persistent inattention to dust and general grime, he appreciated Ginny’s firm belief in everything having a place when it wasn’t in use. She’d been known to whisk his coffee cup into the dishwasher before he’d even filled it if he left it unattended for a moment—even for the time it took to let Jack out the back door to empty his failing bladder. Her dog.
Ginny had divorced Kye in 2006 after seven years of marriage, spent the first year after that alone, and the next four in another relationship—an embarrassing mistake. More time on her own eventually led her back to thoughts of dating. Kye had moved into her new bungalow in Flynn, Tennessee, two years ago. They’d found each other again, oddly enough, on Let’sPlayBall.com. She listed herself as “Rain,” a slight adulteration of her middle name, Rae. She’d thought the made-up name had movie star quality; possibilities foreign to a plain someone called “Ginny.” Her maiden name of Johnson was sufficiently common to make her feel anonymous on the dating app when she reached First Base—the point where two people exchanged last names and phone numbers. Second Base was a first date, and Third Base was, well, whatever a couple decided was the next step. A Home Run, which offered prizes from a random drawing once a month, meant they had to be living together. Contestants must provide proof that they shared the same address in order to be entered into the drawings. The first three bases garnered points then applied toward those prizes. The faster you progressed along the baselines, the more points you earned, and the bigger the Home Run prize might be.
Clarence was the third person to click on the little spinning baseball beside her profile. When she visited his page, she immediately recognized the eyes and the dark sweep of hair across his forehead, though by then it was heavily streaked with silver. He’d listed himself as K. Wilson. She hadn’t thought of him as Kye since the divorce. In front of the judge, she’d called him by his legal name, Clarence, and he’d shot her an icy look, one of many in those days. Clarence, he’d told her, was a name for a clown. Well if the shoe fits, she’d thought, in the final throes of marriage. But the familiar, shocking blue eyes on his profile page made her say yes to Second Base and meeting him at Donuts & Joe. She dressed carefully in a skirt and heels he’d approve of and entered the small coffee shop with something akin to the nervous excitement of a girl on her first date. She’d understood that they were both playing the same game—pretending not to recognize each other online. It would make the sex, when it happened, all the more intense.
But he hadn’t recognized her. Not online, and not for the first couple of moments in the coffee shop. He’d looked at her quizzically as she approached his table in the corner. True, she’d lost weight and dyed her short, graying hair a deep auburn. But still. She could have picked his eyes out of a crowd of a thousand men’s faces. He’d barely registered a flicker at her dark green ones, a fact that still hurt whenever the memory arose. Flustered, she’d nevertheless sailed through three and a half hours of catching up once they pushed that little gaffe out of the way. Hunched over lattes (Kye still added three packets of sugar to his), they’d talked and smiled and looked searchingly into each other’s eyes. They’d gone back to her place, the sex even better than she’d remembered.
She had stopped insisting he call her Rain by the end of the first week, and they happily fell back into familiar arms, into what had not been so bad after all. By the close of six months of their second stint together, they were pretty much talked out and comfortably honest with each other again. But Kye had obviously moved the gun without consulting her, and Ginny was furious. How dare he. And where the fuck was it now?
Having no children made getting back together easy, Kye thought. Kids would have questioned why they split up in the first place, and no doubt they’d have blamed one parent more than the other, making a complicated mess of everything.
But then there was Jack, who Ginny doted over weirdly, as though the dog was her child, and yet whom she also neglected at times. “Jack needs to pee,” he’d say, watching the Corgi pace nervously on short bowlegs in front of the back door. Ginny would not even look his way, head buried in some detective novel or attention tuned to one of her mindless game shows. You’re too smart for that kind of TV, he’d told her more than once, but she rarely responded to criticism of any kind. It was one of the things he loved most about her. She could seldom be drawn into arguments involving her habits or his, which definitely made for smooth days that promised to roll into relatively calm months and years ahead.
He would finally get up and let the dog out—even go out with Jack to keep him company while his odd little black body circled for the perfect five-inch square of ground. Once back inside, Jack would waddle over to Ginny for approval, and she’d kiss his head or rub his stomach while murmuring a vague thank-you to Kye. He resented the assumption that he’d take care of what was essentially her kid with another man. Ginny had spent four of the years before their reconciliation with a tall, skinny blond named Randy who brought eight-year-old Jack home as a birthday present for her the first year they shacked up. Kye didn’t hate the dog, but he hated Randy, a lanky, shifty-eyed creep who had come by too many times since Kye moved into Ginny’s cozy bungalow two years ago.
The most recent visit from Randy had taken place last Friday when Kye was picking up a few groceries after work. He struggled through the front door—two large bags in his arms and no sign of Ginny—to find Randy on hands and knees, hunched ridiculously over the dog, making baby talk. “Ooh, my little sweet potato, my darling little munchkin dog, we’ve missed each other so much! Gimme a grinchy kiss, Jackie-boy.”
Enough to make a grown man vomit. Even the dog, who loved attention, didn’t seem to find the particular wording tasteful. Jack turned his little white-striped face away and shot Randy a dismissive sidelong glance.
“What are you doing here?” Kye’d growled, tripping and almost dropping a wedge of expensive blue cheese for the chicken cordon bleu. It had been an annoying day at work, and Kye wasn’t at his best. Being in charge of a roomful of sullen, court-mandated GED students did not a carnival make.
“Well, hey, Clarence, how’re ya doing, man? What’re ya making us for dinner?”
Kye ignored the question and found Ginny in the kitchen making drinks—only two, which didn’t help his disposition. Her ex-lover never seemed to get that he was passé and Kye was the new-old lover. After glaring at Ginny and leaving the bags on the counter, Kye returned to the living room and exchanged a few more un-pleasantries with Randy, who finally left. But not before whispering to Ginny back in the kitchen and quickly slurping the bulk of his gin and tonic.
“What did he say to you over there in the corner?” Kye demanded after slamming the door behind Randy. “And don’t offer him drinks, for Christ’s sake.”
Ginny pulled Kye close for a deep kiss that he didn’t resist for long, the stirring in his groin winning out over his anger. When the kiss finally ended amid several smaller but warm and promising pecks, she said, “Just that he misses the dog. Don’t worry—he’ll eventually get tired of this visitation stuff. He’s always been more upset about the dog than about me, you know.”
Kye didn’t know, but he wanted to believe it. Ginny had a good heart—too good, sometimes. And stupid Jack—if it wasn’t for the bowlegged little mutt, maybe Randy would stay away permanently. Dog visitation was the dumbest part of any break-up arrangement Kye had ever heard of. And Jack seemed to be getting senile these days. He carried random items around the house—Ginny’s sandal, Kye’s belt, and once an empty box of Cheerios fallen from the overstuffed recycling bin in the kitchen—depositing the items in various locations: behind the sofa, in the spare bedroom, under Ginny’s office desk. She thought it was cute, but Kye found it irritating.
“C’mon, baby, why can’t randy Randy just get his own dog?” he’d asked her when the man visited for the first time after Kye moved in.
“But this is Jack,” she’d said unreasonably.
Of all things, they won a box of ammo when they scored a Home Run. Ginny scanned and sent files of their phone and electric bills to the dating site, one in her name, the other in Kye’s, and both with their current shared address.
“What’ll we ever do with this?” Ginny had said when the package arrived. The thing with randomly awarded Home Run prizes was, you couldn’t choose. The prizes themselves, within your earned-points level, were also random. Various businesses that received free advertising from Let’sPlayBall.com donated them, and gun shops were apparently on the list.
“We’ll buy a gun that goes with it,” Kye said. “We can get into target practice. It’s fun—I did it with my dad when I was a teenager.”
“I remember you telling me that.” Ginny had struggled to keep her tone even while her thoughts raced ahead to how she would feel about a gun in the house. It wasn’t her style. Guns and men didn’t go well together. Not that she didn’t trust Kye in that way, but when she was a kid, her father had brandished his deer rifle whenever he got drunk and argued with her mother. He never shot anyone, but she still felt sick to her stomach when anyone held a gun in her presence.
“Can you even have ammunition without some kind of permit or something? How would we know what kind of gun goes with this?” she asked, holding the package well away from her body as if the bullets might fire at any minute.
“I’m sure I can figure this out, Ginny,” Kye had said with exaggerated patience. “There’s no regulation on owning ammunition in Tennessee. And you don’t need to have anything to do with it if you don’t want to.”
What she finally made him promise was that they’d choose a good hiding place, and they’d both know where the gun was at all times. For safety. Kye had readily agreed, except he’d wondered why the kitchen drawer, beneath the towels. She told him it was an unexpected place, that’s why. And because he’d nixed the freezer, saying dampness would damage the gun.
She and Kye had met at one of the county district’s high schools, twenty-five miles from Flynn. Ginny did office work and test data entry, and in late afternoons she usually ended up in his classroom at the alternative program’s designated computer. Quietly typing in the background, she’d been impressed with his kindness and patience with a bunch of rude, uninterested seventeen-year-olds. Kye didn’t often strike people as patient or kind, but Ginny got to know that side of him gradually when they started meeting for drinks and dinner after school hours. The first time he asked her out, she’d jumped because he’d come up to her desk so quietly. She’d been engrossed in entering grades into the system. Those were kids’ lives, after all, even if most of them weren’t star students. She smiled and told Kye she’d have to take a raincheck, and she’d seen the flash of resignation in his eyes as he said, “Sure, that’s fine.”
“No, no. I mean it,” Ginny had reassured him. “I’d love to get to know you better. But today I have to pick up a friend when I leave. She and I catch a movie and dinner about once a month. She moved down from New York a few years ago. Her husband works part time as a bus driver here. Spence and Annie—you might know Spence.”
A week later, Ginny reminded Kye of his offer and told him she was free Friday afternoon after work. He didn’t play hard to get, thankfully—that would have turned her off. And she soon found a good man underneath that gruff and tough exterior. The year the marriage turned sour and they parted, Ginny left the district to work for a testing service back in Flynn. She now entered data from home and drove in to the main office only for staff meetings. Jack had stayed on at the school, still giving the kids his best.
She wondered even now why they’d divorced. Kye wasn’t the cheating kind, nor was she. They’d gotten a little stale, was all, forgetting to keep things interesting, sick of their gossipy neighborhood but suffering some kind of inertia. One thing led to another, and they both decided (although “decided” was too strong a word for their blundering, Annie told her) that maybe something better existed elsewhere. She was a little afraid it could happen again, and yet this time she knew they were right for each other. But why did he move the gun, and why was he denying it? She couldn’t believe he’d ever threaten Randy with it. Kye knew she didn’t have any feelings left for Randy other than a little compassion for his loss of the dog. Randy had turned out to be the opposite of Kye, with a veneer of soft and gentle, but rough and sometimes even mean underneath. Ginny still didn’t know how that had lasted four years. Maybe just another example of inertia.
That night in bed, the night after she found the gun missing, they’d argued long toward morning about Randy and the gun and who had moved it. Kye finally turned away and said, “Enough. It doesn’t even matter. What happens now is what matters.” Ginny knew exactly what he meant.
Ginny and Kye sat across from each other at the small breakfast bay the following morning, arms stretched toward each other, fingers intertwined. She kept stealing glances at the blue twinkle on her left hand—the sapphire engagement ring Kye hid under her pillow three nights ago, guiding her hand to it in the dark after they made love. They’d both gotten rid of their plain gold bands when they divorced. What woman ever thought she’d remarry a man she’d called a clown? What man ever thought he’d remarry the same game-show-devouring woman who had let thick dust collect over neatly arranged belongings in their cramped starter home? But he’d remembered from the first time around that she didn’t like diamonds, surprising her instead with this, her favorite gemstone.
And although some women might object, Ginny loved that the pawned gun and ammo had helped pay for the ring. The sweetness of his sacrifice had lifted her heart, along with the absence of the gun. Their romance held real history—solid stories they could reminisce over in their twilight years. She thought of how this second time around had started, the hope she’d felt with LetsPlayBall.com and how, ironically, it had led her back to Kye. Where she belonged.
Jack curled on a blanket in the corner by the stove, his dark, serious eyes following their every move, evaluating tone and words. The dog recognized many words beyond sit, stay, lie down, walk, ride, and cookie. Ginny, who loved trivia of that kind, once listed all the words Jack “knew” and came up with sixty-seven. Kye, far from convinced, had frowned as Ginny argued that the average dog could learn and retain around 165 words. Jack was a good little animal though, and Kye found himself liking the dog more and more these days.
“But how did it get in Jack’s bed?” Ginny wondered for at least the fourth time.
“I’m telling you, it was Randy. Jerk. Just like him to think that would be funny.”
“He wouldn’t know where the gun was, so that doesn’t make sense.”
Kye sighed and squeezed her hands. “It’s not rocket science, Gin. The dog couldn’t drag the stepstool over, open a drawer, and carry the gun to his bed by himself. The man’s a pest and a snoop. Turn your back, and he’s looking at something that’s none of his business. If you left him alone in the kitchen for five minutes, he’d be nosing through every cupboard and drawer.”
“Well . . . that last time,” Ginny said, “I did go outside to pick up the mail while he was here. But honey, we could have called the police and accused him of stealing it! Would he really chance that? His fingerprints—”
“The man’s a dumb shit,” Kye interrupted, releasing her fingers and sitting back, crossing the long, lean arms she loved. “You really believe Randy would think this through?”
Ginny remained silent for a few moments, turning over Kye’s words. Randy wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, as her father would have said were he still alive. And she wondered if that four-year mistake would leave her alone for long. She’d told him on the phone three days ago, right after Kye found the gun under the plaid blanket in the dog’s bed, that he was no longer welcome in their home, that something had come up missing.
“Oh really?” Randy replied. “Like maybe Clarence’s clown wig?”
“No,” Ginny had snapped back. “Like maybe a gun, Randy. So maybe just shut up and keep yourself out of trouble, okay?”
His voice shook a little after that, and he insisted angrily that he knew nothing about any gun. He reminded her that she hated them, so why would he even think of looking for a gun in her house.
“Hating them has nothing to do with hiding them,” she’d answered, perhaps a bit irrationally. “And because you find one doesn’t mean that’s what you’re looking for. Your snooping around my house is finished, Randy. We’re finished.” He’d backed down a little, whining about how much he’d miss Jack. But before they hung up, she wrested a reluctant promise from him never to show up at her door again. She had to mention the police twice. And the last words she said to him were almost Kye’s, echoing in her head, making her suddenly happier—and surer—than she’d felt in a long while.
“Get your own dog, Randy.”
Cathy Ann Kodra’s poetry and short stories have appeared in Blueline, New Millennium Writings, RHINO, Still Crazy, The Medulla Review, The RavensPerch, Whale Road Review, and others. She is an independent editor and an associate editor for MSI Press and Iris Publishing Group.