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Michael Fontana

White Wine

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It was almost like a romance with the chilled white wine in the silver bucket saturated with ice except my lover on this particular day was a small caliber handgun pointed straight at my temple. The chilled white was to say nighty-night to both my inhibitions and my nerve endings.

The corpse would be of a loosely attractive man in his early forties, brown haired, a thick mane of it that came to a sharp crest on the forehead, blue eyed, nearly six foot five but developing the faintest paunch in the middle, and hung like an oxen. Thin lips. Thick eyebrows. Protruding ears.

What could carry such despondency?

Well, my proclivity toward other women for one thing.

My wife was a fine wife. She was a twig of a woman herself, with a broom's end bushel of blonde hair on her head.

She first heard of the dalliances by way of rumor, a voice cutting through the confetti of our suburban neighborhood with the very ugly rumor that I had spilled my seed inside a fine young housewife new to our cul-de-sac. "Did you?" she asked, clutching her belly as if to double over with the gunshot I had symbolically applied.

"Of course not," I lied.


"Why won't you look at me, then?"

My eyes fluttered around the room like canaries. I put them to rest on the point of her nose and she knew right then that the lie was true. Or the truth was a lie. Any way you sliced it, it was confusing and contradictory and rolled like a pin over the stale dough of our marriage. "I'm sorry," I said.

"Was she worth it?"

"Of course not. It never is." The first lie then of course oozed out into more lies, the gradual uncovering of the depth of the lies, how far up to the elbow she could go in immersing herself in them.

"Never? So there were more?"

"There's always more," I said, now developing a backbone of sorts, however much a man can muster at the same time of his own systematic and semiotic undoing.

She began battering me about the head with a copy of the morning paper. I stumbled backward from her attacks and wound up in the kitchen, opening the refrigerator as if by instinct and plucking out a bottle of white wine she had chilling in the back. Thankfully the cork was only partway wedged in the top so I was able to quickly pop it out and offer it to her like a white flag of surrender.

The paper continued to strike like some inky serpent until she finally seized the wine instead, the paper fluttering into sections on the floor. She drank from the bottle. Her eyes squinted like to make a bead. "I hate you," she said between swallows.

"It only makes sense."

"That I hate you or that you copulate with other women?"

"Both. Each has its own logic within us."

The bottle only barely missed my head being bursting into shards against the wall, rinsing my hair in its fluidity and bouquet.

She next raced outside and I followed. She had somewhere along the path taken hold of a bottle of window cleaner and began spraying every surface of our station wagon. A roll of papers was conveniently situated inside the back seat, so she ferociously wiped the liquid off as if the orgone energy would simply dissipate through sheer elbow grease.

After exhausting herself in this way, she stormed back indoors and seized a few possessions before clearing out for good. She didn't carry much, just her laptop slung under her arm with a threat of writing the biographical novel that would lacerate me to tattered ruins.

There was no more wine on the chill that night so I simply swigged away at a room-temperature red instead, dousing myself until I resembled a puddle on the floor, and finally puking up a pink crustacean of wine and bread to settle in one of the grooves between planks.

In that hour of inspiration and dissipation combined, I sought the revolver that would exit my brain into more gray and red globules on the wall. Much as I had chilled white wine to seduce my lovers, so too did I chill to seduce the ultimate lover: death.

I awaited an evening when I was certain the neighbors would be off on one of their social romps, visiting others in the city, whether friends or relatives I was never certain. It never mattered much to me exactly what they did, only that I was able to record and recognize their patterns as they impacted my ability to bring a tryst by home, douse her with wine and bury my edifice into her body.

They were all meaningless, these connections with other women, just another way of expelling stress in the case where my wife wouldn't or couldn't come through with the proverbial sexual goods as it were, whether in the dire dours of menses or simply fatigued from her days as a teacher. I was a prick. I was no good and made damn sure the world knew it.

It didn't matter whether a stranger's bed, a hotel's bed, my marital bed or a bed of tremulous roses for my dalliances, it only mattered that the dalliance occurred. It only mattered that the fever of my body and my nerves exploded in a mist of desire into the warmest centrifuge known to man, or at least this particular man.

The romps vanished in the place of the solemn weight of a handgun in my fist. Turning it round and round like a kaleidoscope, as if the pieces would somehow rearrange themselves into objects of another kind but never really doing so, I finally hooked my index finger round the trigger and considered giving it a microscopic version of the kind of squeeze I gave my concubines.

But I didn't squeeze the women nor did I squeeze the trigger. I was a coward, see, but you already knew that from the dalliances alone. Calling women concubines is easy behind an illuminated screen where only my fingers dance rather than any substantive part of me. The gun smelled silver. The oil bled onto my wrist. I bit the barrel as if to take another perspective on the hour, nay, millisecond, of my would-be demise.

Death flung itself across a blue divan like one of any number of buxom chorus girls. It raised a thigh and laughed at my desire. It saw me whimpering and cowering upon the sofa, laying the gun down like the proverbial golden goose's egg. But it held no value, no purpose, once released.

I was not similarly released. I poured myself a glass of white wine and the freeze bit into my sinuses, it was just that cold.


The door opened with the click of a trigger and locked again in similar fashion. "Is this a solo pity party or is anyone allowed?"

My wife stood there with her bushel of blonde hair, dressed in an overcoat and pumps, looking as if indeed she had prepared herself for arrival at a party rather than at this premature wake. An indolent aura of pomegranate and apple saturated my nostrils as she removed her coat to reveal a little black dress and stockings sky-high.

"Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?" I said, trying to sound hard as granite.

"You're no little boy. At least not in appearance."

"But my soul, on the other hand, is young and in need of your covetous hands."

"Don't even start with me. I'm not one of your frolics. I'm your wife." She sat at the opposite end of the sofa and put her pumps up on the glass coffee table.

"Why are you here?" I asked, unveiling the pistol in my palm as if it might dissuade her from remaining and thus give me an additional excuse for powdering the room in my brains.

She looked at it as if it was a turd. "Put that thing away."

"I'm going to put myself away," I said, the granite returning to my voice.

"You'll do no such thing. The worst you'll do is knick your head with a bullet and sit out the night on a gurney in the ER, bleeding into gauze while a thousand horny nurses tease you with their bright white stockings scooting by."

"You are trying to seduce me."

"I'm trying to stop you."

"How did you even know this was going on?"

"A wifely instinct, you might say. I mostly came by to stop you from flopping into the sack with any more women. I came to have a come to Jesus meeting as they say. Didn't know you'd be arming yourself."

"Well, I am."

"You can just stop fornicating you know."

"I can't."

"Sure you can. You just don't want to."

"You want me to hack the offending appendage off?"

"I want you to stop."

She seemed to just then notice the bottle of chilled white sitting there, and helped herself to a swallow straight from the bottle.

"That looks familiar from your stage exit the other night."

She drank again. "Give me the gun."


She reached over and plucked it out of my hand. She dropped it straight into her purse as if it had abided there all along. "You'll come with me to counseling, yes?"

"Judging from the way you just handled that gun, do I have any choice?"


I began to cry a little, then a lot. It seemed an even deeper indignity to have snot dawdle from my nose, water slathering my cheeks. "What now?" I asked, more marmalade than granite.

"Drink," she said. Between us we passed the bottle back and forth until the chill wore off the glass and our souls.

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