Kim McCollum


His fingers are tensing around something. His face is red, his eyes wild. I see the muscles in his forearms bulge with the effort. A vein throbs near his temple. His bald head glistens in the canned light overhead. I am upside down. There is intricate stenciling up near the ceiling. It compliments the terra cotta tiles on the stairs of the Mexican villa we rented. The tiles are hard on my back.

How long will it last this time? This fury that knows no logic. This fury that has forgotten promises. Sometimes it is minutes. Sometimes hours. It is unpredictable, this fury. Just when I think I can predict it, in a glance from across the dinner table, a balled fist, a stray insult, it morphs. It is slippery, like an eel. It is unbalanced, like vertigo. I am spinning. Again.

In ballet class they said to find a spot on the wall to focus on, to keep from getting dizzy when spinning. I find a flower in the stencils on the wall. But vertigo renders reality obsolete. Up is down, right is left. The floor hits me where the ceiling was or maybe it was him.

How is this my reality? Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it is a dream. No, a nightmare. Maybe I don’t have three children with this man. Maybe they don’t have a father who would do this. Maybe I deserve it like he says I do. I spin. I should leave. But the kids. I should stay. He doesn’t do it often. I spin. Once is too many times. Maybe this is the last time. I spin. He will take the kids. He won’t get them when he does this. I spin. He can be so charming, so loving, such a great dad. He doesn’t mean this. He is mean. I spin. His fingers tighten. I gasp.

I find his eyes, find them wild. Gone are the green eyes the color of the Caribbean ocean as it shifts from blue to green. The eyes that said “I do.” Now, they churn black and red with rage. I grab his wrists and plead with my eyes for forgiveness. I don’t know what I need absolution from, but I must. His eyes soften, and then his hands. I breathe. I spin.

I find the flower stencil. Still, I spin.

Kim McCollum lives in Bozeman, MT with her blended menagerie of 5 kids and 4 dogs. Her home is full of love, but rarely tidy. She is a graduate of Barnard College and is currently pursuing her MLA in Creative Writing from Harvard University. She is the author of the travel blog and her fiction short story “The Red Sled” will be published in Fiction on the Web in June of 2021. She was also a finalist in Now Novel’s Character Writing Contest. In her spare time, Kim loves to ski, hike, travel, and drink wine.