Alchemy by Vincent Barry

. . . The marriage? . . . Oh, well, since you ask about the marriage—
Early on there was a leak in the kitchen. Or was it the bath? No matter,
there was a leak, that’s the thing . . . and that I couldn’t fix it, . . . and that I
had to call a plumber, . . . and that I had to stand by and watch my young
bride admire the plumber’s facile handiwork. . . .

As I look back, that first leak—I think that, yes,—since you ask about
the marriage,—that first leak, and not the proverbial road untaken, that first
leak has made all the difference. . . .

The plumber? . . . Oh, well, since you ask about the plumber—The
plumber had a large carnivorous head and face, with stony eyes and a dark
mustache under a bulky nose, and had what I can only term an air of iron
strength. . . . And, of course, I’ll never forget, because it was, mind you, no
mean feat: While he was fixing the leak, the thick-jawed plumber with
overhanging brow was fixing my wife with a hard meaning stare, which I
was certain she was conscious of because, y’see, her color rose, before
her face turned pale and extinguished as if she’d fall into a swoon. . . .

How did that make me feel? Oh, well, since you ask how I felt—I felt . . .
excited, inadequate, provoked—like that. Like, since you ask, like I wanted
to—well, open the plumber’s skull with a single blow of his heavy steel pipe
wrench, ’s how I felt . . . .

Of course, I didn’t know then that that would be the first of a parade of
factotums with lolling tongues and determined eyes that over the years I’d
regard come and go like-like—

A eunuch in a seraglio? Oh, no, no. More like-like—what? a grand
seigneur, I’d say.

Hmm? Why that? Oh, well, since you ask why that—Because, don’t you
see, each fix, fettle, and trim shape-shifts my wife, . . . fancifully, . . .
chimerically, . . . phantasmagorically into a quasi concubine, and also back
into that young bride who held my heart captive when the faucet first leaked
in the kitchen . . . or bath.

# # #

Vincent Barry. For some of Barry’s other stories, see: Vignette Review (“Nodding on the A Train,” Winter 2016), Tower Journal (“The Joiner’s Tale,” January 18, 2016), Friday Flash Fiction (“Eliot’s Flea Market,” March 2, 2016), Fewer Than500 (“A Late Walk,” March 15, 2016), Apocrypha and Abstractions (“Seduction or Something Else,” March 21, 2016), Midway Journal (“Earslips,” April 2016), Literally Stories (“Borrowed Fragments,” June 24, 2016),Corvus Review (“Biker Girl,” Spring/Summer 2016), Saint Ann’s Review (“Internal Damage,” Summer/Fall 2016),Mulberry Fork Review (“Tour du Jour,” August 2016), Bull (“Reading Hawking but Listening to Grieg,” Issue 6, August 2016), Rivet (“Through the Bay’s Lace Curtains,” forthcoming).

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