Beth Sherman: Tremors
After the dinner party, Jon went into the bathroom, took two Adivans and washed them down with a fifth of vodka. His body was vibrating and he knew he’d never be able to sleep without chemical assistance. It was some kind of neurological disorder but none of the doctors he went to could pinpoint the cause. They kept sending him for expensive tests that came back negative. Nights were the worst. He would lay there and shake, and the vibrations were so strong he was amazed Kayla didn’t complain he was making the bed move.
She was wandering around the kitchen not doing the dishes, which were piled haphazardly on the countertops. Uneaten meat congealed into hard, malicious lumps.
“I thought it would be more fun,” she said. “I mean, they’re our friends. We haven’t seen them in what . . . a few months?”
He wondered if he should mention what he saw or let it go. There was something to be said for either option. He hated conflict. He hated conflict so much he would rather cage the bad thoughts in his head than let them escape. On the other hand, people shouldn’t be allowed to get away with stuff. Fair play and all.
He walked over to the sliding door and opened it. The night air was humid and rank. Nothing stirred.
“How are you feeling,” she asked. “You barely said two words all night.”
“Do you want more pie or should I put it away?”
“No thanks,” he said, wanting to take the peach cobbler and mash her cheeks into the sticky orange filling.
When he met Kayla he was working at Sports Authority, unloading merchandise from trucks, piling it on shelves in the stockroom. He’d only been on the floor that day because a co-worker had called in sick. Kayla wasn’t pretty but she had an asymmetry to her features that pleased him. He used to think he could flat leave her any time he wanted, but now he saw that wasn’t going to be possible. He felt his veins pulsing, tiny vibrations invisible to the eye.
“I saw you,” he blurted out.
Her face crumpled a little, like a tissue that was still usable. “What do you mean?”
“Before. With Jen. “You were in the kitchen and I came in to get another beer. You didn’t know I was there.”
“I told you all that’s past. I’m with you now.”
He tried to read her expression but her face had closed up into angles and planes. Unreadable. The shape of it diluted his anger a little.
“Then why were you kissing her?”
“I don’t know.”
She sounded sad.
She walked over to where he was standing by the door.
“Does it feel like I’m shaking?”
Her fingers closed around his fist. His whole arm was bouncing, like there were tiny beetles inside him, struggling to get free. Tremors. Discrete, involuntary movements following a seismic event. He’d looked it up.
He put his other hand on top of hers and squeezed, transferring the pinging sensations from his body to hers, as though he were jump starting a car battery.
“Can you feel that?” he demanded, watching the color drain out of her face. “Good.”
He needed her to know what was real.
Beth Sherman received an MFA in creative writing from Queens College, where she teaches in the English department. Her fiction has been published in The Portland Review, KYSO, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Sandy River Review, Blue Lyra Review, Gloom Cupboard and Panoplyzine, and Delmarva Review and is forthcoming in Rappahannock Review and Sou’wester. Her poetry has been published in Hawaii Pacific Review, Hartskill Review, Lime Hawk, Synecdoche, Gyroscope and The Evansville Review, which nominated her poem, “Minor Planets” for a Pushcart Prize this year. She’s also written five mystery novels.