“In the Café” by Bev Magennis

In the Cafe
Beach at Selinunte, Sicily, 2000

In the café, you complain about your husband. A year ago, I nearly died. Dr. Moller sliced a tumor the size of a cantaloupe from my abdomen.

You talk about spying on the cheat and order a latte and ask if I’d like one. My system can’t process the acid. I order decaf green tea.

You suggest we split the tab. Sure.

On the street you say you’ll confront the creep directly, no fooling around, no games.

My eyes follow sunlight on gold leaves shifting among branches.

What if Gary were having an affair? After eight months of not leaving my side, of delivering me to the emergency room, camping by my bed, accompanying me to doctors’ appointments, labs, scanning and imaging centers, he deserves a tall brunette with tits that look implanted but aren’t, creamy legs that sprout from black stilettos and disappear under a short, satin skirt. Someone whose voice purrs, whose gestures slice the air in clean, graceful arcs, whose eyes, under heavy lashes, hint at mischief. Optimistic, with few demands. Reasonable, but generous. Kind.

I’d set him free in an instant.

Alas, he’s stuck with me. Sixty-seven. Breasts sad as teardrops, face weathered and lined from working outdoors. The clichéd arms, thighs and neck of a skinny older woman. Old woman.

Not just old, high strung and bothersome – to a quiet man. My mind swims in an ocean of gray matter, poking among reefs for endless possibilities, various approaches, seeking the best solution to minute problems, until time runs out and I opt for one of a thousand final decisions. The process aggravates a black-and-white thinker who seldom asks a question, the consequences of curiosity not worth the emotional or intellectual engagement called upon to engage in the string of thoughts my response might unravel.

Yes, I’d set him free. But he doesn’t ask for that. And I don’t offer.



Bev Magennis was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1942 and immigrated to the US in 1964. She received her MA in Art from the Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California. After a 30-year career as a visual artist, she started writing. In 2009 she was accepted to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop Summer Graduate Class. She was awarded a 2010 Pen USA Emerging Voices Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2011, she received the Norman Mailer Fellowship in Fiction, Provincetown, MA. She has lived in New Mexico for 35 years where she has written two novels and is currently working on a third.