’19 Toucans’ by Adrian Belmes

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She had been drifting for too long, too languid in the warm, wet air. The roaring of birds just beyond the window had kept her awake most the night, and the morning sun, relentless, rising to its zenith, brought no relief of temperature. Her thin top was soaked through with viscid, guilty sweat, and the covers had pooled in a discarded heap opposite the empty half of their expatriated bed. Richard had gone first into the shower and left her to mold, alone, in the unwelcome moisture.

Rolling from her back onto her side, she thought about Manuelo and his mango-scented fingers. The mattress springs collided with the bones in her hips, and she hummed, shifted. His bed was softer, she recalled. She had not slept there any more than here, but not for fault of birds. They did not watch her in that place, crying at the windows like voyeurs. Only vindictive alligators roamed beyond the walls of that shack in the cool, dark mangroves. Here, in her husband’s loveless bed, she remembered. Her fingers dipped beneath the hug of her elastic thong. She ran a hand down her thigh, thought of feathers, mangoes, mangroves, touched her sex lightly, breathed shallow.

“Honey?”

Her hand retreated, sluggish, interrupted, as she rolled back to her other flank, facing her intruder, creaking with the bedsprings. He only saw the flush in her cheeks and was perturbed.

“What? Is something wrong?”

She regarded his wet, apathetic body and saw scales glistening beneath the clinging dew. Her shallow smile did not reach her eyes.

“Sorry, I mistook you for an alligator.”

He twisted up his face, furrowed his brows, and turned his lips, but amusement came across his features and they twisted back again the other way. Head shaking, smiling, he retreated, dumb.

She considered the mangroves. The mangoes. The alligators.

Adrian Belmes is the editor in chief of Badlung Press and a managing editor for Fiction International. He published a chapbook about infidelity last year and an anthology about finstagrams this year. He doesn’t surf enough and frequently falls asleep to documentaries. His work can be found at adrianbelmes.com or @adrian_belmes on Twitter. He encourages you to bother him, frequently.

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