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Published: Wed Jul 1 2009
Eva LundsagerUnder Constant Still (detail), 2017–2021, oil on canvas
Sometimes She Wondered What Would Happen

Sometimes she wondered what would happen if he found out. He would be angry, of course; there’d be no getting around that. He’d be furious. He’d say things he didn’t really mean, the way he always did when they fought. He’d say he couldn’t believe she could do this to him. How could she possibly do this to him? Why was she always doing things like this to him? Had she ever stopped to think about it? That’s what he would want to know: had she ever really just stopped and thought about all the ways she’d failed him? He’d list several ways. He’d give examples. He was fond of giving examples, as in, “it’s just like the time you wouldn’t give that woman her Susan B. Anthony dollar back after you found it in the ashtray,” or, “it’s just like the time I asked you if you’d mailed the kitty food and you’d left it in Sarasota,” or, “this is what I’d expect from someone who steals cable.”

Then he’d sulk. God, how he would sulk if he found out! He’d grab his jacket and leave the house in a huff. He’d slam the door—whump!—and return an hour later, unable to think of anything to do that could match the degree of his anger. Later, he’d drink a few beers from the fridge, listen to music on headphones, making the angry face he always made when he drank beer and listened to music on headphones. He’d sleep on the sofa and leave the television on. When she said goodnight, he would pretend not to hear. He’d flip channels, watching all the shows she hated most. Shows she knew he didn’t like either, like CSI or The Girls Next Door. The next day he’d leave the house before her, hoping she’d worry.

But sometimes she didn’t wonder what would happen if he found out, and she’d feel okay. The two of them would go to a movie, or a bookstore, or the farmer’s market, and she wouldn’t think the least thing about what would happen if he found out. They would talk, make jokes, laugh. Days would pass. Weeks. They’d fall into the happy-ish routine they’d always known. They’d eat too many Indian buffets and visit his family in Arkansas. They’d make love. Of course they’d do that. So much time would pass that she would wake up some mornings feeling cheery and hopeful, almost giddy, but then she would remember and the feeling would vanish and she’d wonder what would happen if he found out.

Anthony Varallo is the author of a novel, The Lines (University of Iowa Press, forthcoming 2019), as well as four story collections: Everyone Was There (Elixir Press, 2017), winner of the Elixir Press Fiction Award; Think of Me and I’ll Know (Northwestern University Press/TriQuarterly Books, 2013); Out Loud (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008), winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize; and This Day in History (University of Iowa Press, 2005), winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award. He teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the College of Charleston (in Charleston, South Carolina), where he serves as fiction editor of Crazyhorse. (updated 7/2019)

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