James Tadd Adcox
Originally published in The Delinquent
To celebrate her refusal of worldly success Elena buys herself a midprice bottle of wine. She tells the young man working behind the counter that it’s her birthday. “How old are you?” “Thirty-seven,” Elena says. “You look younger,” he says. “I’ve refused worldly success,” Elena says. “I could have had it, but I refused.” “Well, have a nice night anyhow.”
While she’s drinking the wine Elena’s ex-husband Jacob calls her. He tells her that he’s on his way to Ukraine, to pick up the new wife he arranged for himself over the internet. Elena says that’s the most sickening thing she’s ever heard. “I thought you would be happy for me.” “I’m sorry I ever married you.” “I thought we were trying to be cordial.”
Elena watches television shows about people who had worldly success once, and now regret it. She thinks, That’s just the sort of thing I’m avoiding, by refusing worldly success. Perhaps I’ll become a saint. You never see television shows about people who became saints and now regret it.
“You’re a highly competent young woman,” Elena’s boss says. “There’s not enough competence to go around these days. And your current position requires competence. Which means that unfortunately I will not be able to grant your promotion. However, we can discuss adding value to your current position.” “What does adding value mean?” “Like flexible hours, for example.” “Could I work a half-day on Fridays?” “No.”
Elena listens to the radio at work:
There are three gates in the East.
There are three gates in the West.
There are three gates in the North.
There are three gates in the South.
That makes twelve gates to the city.
Something wonderful is growing inside me, Elena thinks. I can feel it.
Jacob returns to Chicago with his new Ukrainian wife. She is blond and a head taller than Jacob. Elena has dinner with Jacob and his Ukrainian wife. “Something wonderful is growing inside me,” Elena tells Jacob. “Oh my God, Elena, are you pregnant?” Elena considers the question. “No, it’s different than that.” The Ukrainian wife looks down at her rotini with distain.
Elena tells her friend Pam that she has decided to become a saint. “You never hear about saints regretting their decision later,” Elena says. “Saint Stephen was stoned,” says Pam, who was raised Catholic. “Saint Sebastian was shot full of arrows. Saint Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, was crucified. Saint Bartholomew was flayed alive and then crucified.” “Alright, alright,” Elena says. “I get it. The lives of saints can be hard. But all that pain is worth it in the end, right?” “Sometimes,” says Pam.
Jacob calls Elena. His new wife won’t have sex with him anymore, now that they’re married. “I’m sorry to hear that,” Elena says. “Do you want to have sex again sometime?” asks Jacob. “God, no. I’m thinking about becoming a saint, Jacob. There is something wonderful and perhaps ineffable slowly growing inside me.” “I don’t see what that has to do with whether or not we should have sex,” says Jacob.
Elena goes to the doctor. The doctor shows her x-rays of her chest. There is a little girl inside, maybe six years old, but tiny, no larger than Elena’s heart. “We can take her out,” the doctor says. “Why is she so small?” says Elena. “She’ll probably get larger once we take her out,” says the doctor. “What is she doing in there?” “I’d say it’s probably a miracle of some sort,” the doctor says, wiping his glasses on his coat.
Elena takes the little girl to meet Jacob and his new wife. The little girl fits in Jacob’s cupped hands. “She’s beautiful,” Jacob says. “I think I’m beginning to understand how empty my life is.” “Oh, that’s not the point,” Elena says. “That’s not the point at all.”
|James Tadd Adcox has work published or forthcoming in PANK, Mid-American Review, Barrelhouse, and Another Chicago Magazine, among other places. He is the editor of Artifice Magazine, which recently went on tour through parts of the Midwest and East Coast to celebrate/hype the release of its second issue. He owns no pets.|
The Delinquent is published in the United Kingdom. Its issues include short prose and poems with an eye toward experimental. Founded in 2006, The Delinquent prints three issues a year.