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January 13, 2014

The Lengths
By Leesa Cross-Smith

Kieran was bottle green in her mouth—the taste of wilted, salted kale. Sometimes she convinced herself she could still hear the popping Morse code braille of his tap-dancing, a kaleidoscopic map of sound leading the way back to him. Even when he was home in Ireland. Even when he had shows in New York. Even when he had shows in New Zealand and she was in her American bed alone with a steamy mug of tea and clover honey; reading historical fiction about Scottish men in kilts, dashing warriors thundering the ground on leviathan, shadow-black horses.
They were a romance novel come to life, only Kieran usually wore a too-big sweatshirt with the hood pulled up. God bless the sexy superhero mysteriousness of a half-covered face. He also danced on street corners, in Irish pubs, restaurants, places where people sat down for foamy black-brown pints of Guinness, fried fish and chips with thick wedges of lemon. Cottage pie, bangers and mash. Cheese and chive fritters, beef stew. Irish whiskey steak, soda bread, butter. Sticky toffee pudding.
Someone at the table next to them said Kieran's quick feet cast a spell. Hypnotized. His legs, his muscular wood-strong thighs—they were magic wands. Her friend snorted, she blushed. They Beavis & Butthead laughed.
Heh. Magic wand. Abraca-effing-dabra. Girrl, he can use his magic wand on me.
That first night, first kiss after the pub closed, Kieran handed her a frosty, pocket-sized bottle of bourbon. They passed it back and forth, draining it in the white winter night. The snow-pink sky was so pretty, it worried her. She ached. She could actually feel it in her back, the upper muscles of her arms. He asked if it were okay to kiss her, would it make her feel better.

What they became: muscle ache and massage, spoon and spoon rest. Relying on one another as much as snowflakes and Narnia lamppost light, helium balloon and string.
“Your hair, it's like...red clouds,” she said, handing herself over to him—vanishing against the drumming of her bourbon-flickered blood.

Leesa Cross-Smith's debut short story collection Every Kiss a War will be published early 2014 by Mojave River Press. She and her husband run a literary magazine called WhiskeyPaper.
Find more @ LeesaCrossSmith.com

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