The Candlestick Maker Has Lost Her Way

There are two men in my assigned bathtub.

          One claims the middle seat.

          I like the middle he announces.

          It sounds sexual, but isn’t. He’s an all-beige man, with bleached skin and bleached teeth, the color of an overproofed virgin.

          No one listens to him or the hymns he is humming. They are too busy belting themselves into bathtubs with naked strangers under overhead bins full of meat that smells blue and baguettes that smell of Gerard Depardieu.

          The other man in my row glued himself to the window before I arrived. Literally. With Elmer’s school glue and rubber cement and hot glue for good measure and bad burns.

          I like the window he announces.

          His speech is slurred from a cocktail of sniffed rubber cement and swallowed tiny bottles of booze, cheap wine and cheaper booger glue.

          There are pink subway tiles lining the aisles and shower caps like gifts, folded into rubber ducks. I couldn’t afford gold tiles and tubs and had to bathe coach. There’s a baby crying in row 6. He’s getting a bath, naked as a Jaybird and named Jay too. My companions admire my naked legs and the baby’s chubby ones too. One is a leg doctor. A physician of femurs. A tender of tibias. 

          I want a gin and tonic the row 6 baby announces.

          We laugh because he isn’t old enough to drink.

          When it feels safe, I pull out wax and fire and molds. My window seat man tries to roast a rump roast and his own rump while my middle seat man pulls yeasty dough out of his sourdough mouth.

          We feel turbulence, the men and the baby and the attendants with hot washcloths and hot boiled peanuts in paper bags.

          A bath water hurricane drenches us all.

          Both men look to me for comfort, sad beige eyes and glued-shut eyes. I can offer them none as water pours from above and below and our bathtub sinks to the bottom, leaving bread and beef and candles floating on the surface.

          We hold hands and kick bicycle naked legs up higher and higher until we catch a collective breath. I try to light one of my artisian candles but the wick is wet.

          We float in darkness together, bobbing and weaving.

          Somewhere, the baby is still crying.

AMY BARNES has several pieces featured in XRAY Lit, FlashBack Fiction, Flash Frog, and Janus Literary. Barnes is currently an editor at Fractured Lit, a co-editor at Gone Lawn, and reader for Narratively, CRAFT, Taco Bell Quarterly, and The MacGuffin. Her second flash collection is set to be published by Word West Press in 2022.