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"The Night Jane Didn’t Come Out of The Chair" by Kate Faigen

“When I saw you in half tonight,” Dustin said through beef-jerky breath, “I think I’m actually gonna saw you in half.”

Jane smirked, wiggling her toes in the hotel’s brittle slippers. She too had plans to kill her husband on stage. 

Under the spotlight, they were Jane and Abel—a beloved, town-hopping magic act with a show-stopping finale. Off stage, in crinkly rooms, they were Jane and Dustin, a loveless married couple who hadn’t reached a finale in years.

Dustin picked his teeth with a stumpy finger. “You’re not as pert as you once were. Might need more smoke and mirrors.” While Abel was an articulate, affable showman, Dustin mostly spoke between soda swigs. Yet he knew every fancy word to describe and hurt a woman.

“Dustin.” Jane’s hand glided over her notebook, crossing out a comma then adding it back in with a graceful swipe. “I’m thirty-eight. I’m not melting quite yet.”

Over time, as the magic between them evaporated—ta-da—Dustin became tempestuous pre-show. He’d belch brief, biting words while Jane would half-listen, her mind working on something else. 

Priggish bitch,” Dustin spat. A word Jane almost couldn’t believe he knew. “Too good to call me names?”

Jane would’ve shuddered if the memory didn’t cause a cackle: eons earlier when they were happy, she used to call him the boy with the ice cream face. Dustin would eat it up like a child, never inquiring about its origins or what it meant, just as you’d expect of a boy with an ice cream face.

But they were consummate show people after all, and as Jane and Abel, they blazed—sparks rained on each astonished crowd in some gray town called Fishfirst or Midgey or Rockriver. Like exquisite figure skaters, the duo spun from this trick to the next: Jane suspended in air, Jane with a tree branch through her torso, Jane on fire. 

Abel took the bows.

“Let’s hear it for my tantalizing partner…” he would say, alone on stage, just before each finale. Jane would then extend her arms through the middle of the closed curtains and grab his chest from behind, nails painted stoplight-red, pulling him backward. “I love my job,” Abel would declare with a wink as he vanished.

Behind the curtains, he’d hiss, “I hate you,” and Jane would simply smirk-her signature move.

The night Jane didn’t come out of the chair was like any other. The crowd clutched their chests and necks and mouths, and Abel bowed to boisterous applause. As the finale approached, Jane contorted herself into the skeleton of the chair, two hidden flaps welcoming her inside.

With theatrical verve, Abel sauntered around the chair, ducking beneath its mass, stomping his boot on top of it. He then covered the chair with an ink-blue, satin blanket, and rippled it as he scanned the crowd, twitching with anticipation at the riotous reaction to come.

A-HA,” Abel yelled as he whipped off the blanket. But there was no Jane. Acid sloshed in his stomach as he swallowed a hard lump of air. His elbows shook. Jane, he wanted to scream. Jane, he couldn’t scream. Humiliated and helpless, he laughed too heartily and played along. “Honey!” he said, 50s-style. “Are you home, dear?”

After the lights died on the bemused denizens of Hickoryfly, Dustin dug through the chair with claw hands, ripping apart the flesh like a grizzly. Nothing. The opened flaps of the chair looked like a laughing vagina that had just birthed Jane into another world.

“Fucking. Cunt.” Dustin had no fancy words left. 

From time to time, in his stale, sunken sofa, Dustin wondered where Jane had gone. Mostly, he wondered how she pulled off her dirty trick. How long she had plotted to destroy him. Was she wandering around one of those dumb towns, thinking about where to place commas in her notebook and keeping quiet, keeping to herself? I fucking bet, Dustin thought. Pathetic.

And whether Dustin knew or not, Jane couldn’t care: wherever she went, she walked with big bolts of magic in her pert bones.

Kate Faigen's stories have appeared in Flash Frog, Los Angeles Review, New Flash Fiction Review, and more. You can find her on Twitter: @k8faigen.


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