Elena carries around a pill box dispenser in the shape of the periodic table of elements. Each little compartment contains a small but different pill. When we head out for dinner, she’s discreet about her pill popping despite nothing being discreet about a woman in fine health carrying a pill box with 118 minuscule compartments. She takes them, one at a time and with no set amount, for no particular reason that is obvious. She claims it is just her thing.
I’ve become comfortable with the stares, the prying eyes, these strange scientific shenanigans she plays for an audience that doesn’t know her plot, her endgame. Yet I don’t ask Elena what lies under the plastic lid of Bismuth, a place I swear we visited last winter, or Dysprosium, which I know I spied advertised on TV with encouragement to ask my doctor if it’s right for what ails me. I’m reminded, sometimes chastised, that this is her thing, her hijinks, a dose of the off-kilter for an otherwise serious woman of science.
Tonight she’s particularly aglow for a night on the town. She slides a tiny something atop her tongue pulled from one of the compartments with a capital H on it. She wraps herself in a vibrant assortment of shawls and scarves as we prepare for the evening.
“You’ll need a hat” she informs, tossing me a black, pop-open top hat.
“That ridiculous hat? I’ll look like a magician,” I complain.
She pouts, waits.
We leave her flat, walk toward the town strip of taco trucks, dive bars and cantinas, her hand entwined with mine, until she pulls it away leaving behind a spindly end of one of her scarves, its opposite tied to another, and then another. Impossibly, Elena is now levitating, no, floating, and also unraveling, each scarf and shawl that comprised her outfit unwinding like thread from a spool with no end. Elena escapes a good fifty feet or so into the air and I fear she’ll be nearly nude in no time except for her dazzling heels. A crowd is forming, gawking skyward as I pull on colorful scarves as though it were one long tug-of-war rope connected to Elena the Balloon, Elena the Kite Girl, who has become infinitely smaller from ground level, her scarves and shawls appearing more elaborate than the standard rainbow of handkerchiefs that stream from a magician’s hat. As we perform this little atomic number, two to be precise, as in Elena and me, this impromptu side show on 81st street is gaining wild applause. I’m piecing it together, screeching my own falsetto-helium encouragement her way while simultaneous failing her, incapable of flipping the top hat from my head for tips in fear of losing my grip.
Thad DeVassie’s work has appeared in numerous journals including recent pieces in Unbroken, Spelk, Lunate, FLASH: International Short Story Magazine, Ghost City Review, 50-Word Stories, and Barely South Review. His chapbook, THIS SIDE OF UTOPIA, is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press. He writes from Ohio.