Genevieve DuBois

A Happy Story

She read all his stories by the refrigerator’s glow. He watched her sometimes, the movement of chilled light across her face, the detached way she ate each slice of the orange. When she put the last story down he heard a distant roar in his ears, ocean hissing back from a gravelly shore. She said, can’t you write just one that’s happy.

He said, that one. That one’s happy.

She said, no. They end up together but so what? That habit she has of leaving doors open will come between them soon enough. You know what divorce rates are like these days.

He sat at the table beside her.

So, he said.

So, she said. Write me a happy story.

He said, what makes a story happy?

She said, someone has to get what they want. Also it has to be what they need.

He said, but that doesn’t happen in real life.

She said, I don’t care, tell me a story.

He said, in a grocery in Interlaken, we buy soft cheese, French bread, and fresh tomatoes. Ripe, but not so ripe their skins have begun to wrinkle. You choose a red wine. We are young, maybe, too young to know labels, so you pick one that is not quite cheapest.

We ride the train then the bus to Stechelberg, and the gondola up the mountain. You have never seen mountains like these, so close and tall, scattered with tiny pieces, and we are tiny pieces too. At the hostel we eat our cheese, our bread, our tomatoes, and drink our wine. They have an old backgammon board so we teach ourselves how to play backgammon. Your eyes are bright and wet and green by the flush of your cheeks. Your fingers are like birds.

We wake before dawn. I dreamed of a gray cat purring by my knees but it has slipped away. I hear a cowbell outside, a cow moving in the twilight. We go outside. You still carry a sleepy softness wrapped around you. We walk up the slope without speaking. I feel the sun rising on me, the cold peeling back in layers.

A man and his two grown sons drive a flock of sheep down the road before them.

We stand out of the way on the edge of the mountain. Hooves patter by like rain on a roof, bells jangling on collars. Some bleat as they pass us, close enough to touch. The older man nods to us. I put my arm around you.

He said, like this.

She said, that’s not a happy story. Nothing happened.

And from the refrigerator's hum, the sound of the ocean grew to fill the kitchen cupboards, the light fixture, the orange in her hand, until it filled the space left between them. Then he told her.