What Counts

by Kate Wisel

august 2016 story of the month

I have a change jar. Washed out salsa jar on my bookshelf. Pennies are there, dirty dimes, backs of my earrings, quarters for the train if I'm desperate. I'm sifting through the change on the hardwood when Mickey comes in. He says, "let's get everything."

In the supermarket he steers with his backwards hat and the imprint of his wallet in his pocket. "You like these?" he asks then tosses chips in the cart. We stride down the aisle, kissing, but with his ten million arms whirling in more, like a fan in motion so I barely notice.

Later in bed, I try to talk to him about taxes. They take out a little each month. But because his job is real, a little is a lot. "But isn't it relative" I say, "if everyone has to pay?" I can tell he's still thinking about it like a pie chart—what's missing which reminds him to surprise me with some kind of next-level dessert soon.

But sometimes I have to admit: he looks good, with his fresh cut and his aviators and his Burt's Bee's lips. No argument here. I'm waiting for him to come out of the dressing room in his tangerine pants. He looks so happy. Like there's a monkey on his shoulder. I can see him in his swivel chair. "How do you pronounce BVLGARI?" I ask, fingering the glass over the glasses. Mickey says, "you don't."

I don't get it. It's like we're a special effect. I don't know why he took us here. The lighting is low. I'm checking my savings under the table and it's not saving anybody. Mickey, like a tug on the wrist, a fast grab, says, "we're on vacation." I say, "no, we're not."

We're confusing the waitress: "I'm great with water!" I say. Mickey, through teeth, says, "just get the drink."

I don't get it but I do.

On our walk home I say, "I'm picking up lucky pennies to embarrass you."

"Mickey look, another one! One more." I want to take off my shoe, the sharp heel, and drive it between his eyes.

Instead I close my fist around the coins. Every second counts.

BIO: Kate Wisel is originally from Boston. Her fiction has appeared in The Drum, Juked Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere. Her poetry has appeared in DecomP Magazine, Neon Magazine where she was nominated for The Forward Prize, and on Boston's subway as winner of the "Poetry on the T" contest. She was awarded the Keach Prize at The University of Massachusetts Boston and has earned scholarships to The Wesleyan Writer's Conference, The Juniper Institute, and The Squaw Valley Writer's Workshop.