The God of Minor Inconveniences

by Holden Wright

Finally, I tossed our beta fish, Sweet Baby Ray, onto the kitchen tile, a spectacular end to an argument that had swelled beyond words. I felt a cold stab of regret as the fishbowl sailed from my fingers, but backing out now would prove Gilbert right about my always going off half-cocked. He was right, but I couldn’t give him reason to gloat about it. The noise was tremendous. Water sloshed over my socks. I watched Gilbert watch Sweet Baby Ray, both of us too stubborn to do anything but let the fish flail among the magenta rocks, the broken glass. By Gilbert’s face, I could tell when it was too late.

After he left, I scooped the fish into a wine glass of tap water and did a half-assed sweep of the fishbowl pieces, though my feet found a few shards I’d missed. Sweet Baby Ray floated belly up in the glass, and my bloody feet pinked the useless fishwater. I said a quick prayer for the little creature; I only believed in God when something bad happened.

We lived in a city known for its drug rehab facilities, its hiking trails, its town square flanked by statues of long-dead racists. I worked at a café across from City Hall, eyed the statues and fountains while I mixed acai bowls and foamed lattes. Recovering addicts turned up weekly with resumes, which management fed through the shredder. Too, we got rehab dropouts who slung curses, stayed for either five minutes or two hours, and left condoms in the tip jar.

A week ago, one such burnout came to the door as I was locking it, shaved head, wooden gages, a dragon tattoo curled around his bicep. “Coffee,” he said. “Black.”

“We’re closed,” I told him.

“I’m a god you know,” he said, “and I curse you. May you frequently step in water with your socks on, may you hit more red lights than green, may fragile things slip from your fingers.” He waved his filthy fingernails over my head, securing the spell.

Since then, I’d had a red light/green light ratio of 5:1. And now, four hours after Sweet Baby Ray had become a casualty of my relationship, I tamped a double espresso and wriggled my toes in still-damp socks. I wondered what that meant.

The double espresso was for a middle-aged, salt-and-pepper type. He couldn’t figure what to do with his hands; he pinched his neat whiskers, checked his phone, rubbed palms over gray-slacked thighs. “Have you ever been in love?” he asked me. I pretended not to hear over the churning grounds. “I mean, I think I’m in love, is what I’m saying. She’s from Spain. We’ve been texting for months. Sexting even.”

I handed him his shots, figured I’d bite. “Sure,” I said. “I’ve been in love. I’m still in love, actually.” I think I believed this, though we’d grown so ferocious Gilbert left me some nights to stay at the local, sagging-roofed hotel that claimed a haunting. I asked him about ghosts once. “There’s a strange light sometimes in the window,” Gilbert told me. “Always disappears before I can get to the blinds.”

The salt-and-pepper guy shot a thumb toward the café’s glass storefront. “She might be out there right now,” he told me. “We’re supposed to meet at the fountain in ten minutes. We’ve never met in person. She came all this way.” He stared into his espresso like it held the answers.

I wondered what might have happened had I offered last week’s junkie-god the dregs of our coffeepot, if I’d taken the time to care. After closing tonight, I knew I would haunt downtown, sipping a cold brew and shining my phone’s light through hotel windows, waiting for Gilbert to appear between the curtains. Then, maybe we’d go home and see if Sweet Baby Ray had managed to right himself in the glass.

The customer drank his espresso. I tried to see his mystery woman across the street, but it was full dark now. “Jesus,” he said, and smiled at me. “Jesus. I’m scared as hell.”

Holden Wright is a queer writer from Arizona. His work has been published in Ninth Letter online, Salt Hill Journal, X-R-A-Y, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter: @holdenwrightnow.

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