by Mitchell Toews
Oh, those squinty little eyes. I’ll never forget the look of them. Like the night she found tobacco crumbs in my baseball jacket pocket. She spread the brown flakes out on a white napkin under our dining room table’s one-hundred-watt bulb.
“Arnold, I thought you told me you did not smoke?” she said. Her voice was calm, level as wet cement. The clock ticked on the mantle, sounding just as nervous as I was.
“Thought you were an abstainer,” she added, breaking the near silence like a firm, light rap on the skim of ice topping a bucket of water. For this she used her secret weapon—a large English vocabulary. A second lexical ordnance to complement her mastery of Low German.
“You mess with the bull,” she’d say, ignoring the gender incongruence, but concentrating instead on her low-and-slow delivery, “you get the horns.”