Nesting Dolls

       Matt McGee
The brown sandstone rock out back Marilyn’s townhome
is no rock at all, but a plastic ventilated cover designed by
OSH to hide a humming electrical conductor of some sort,
preserving both the unit and the neighborhood aesthetics.

A few months earlier, had you lifted this fake turtle shell
of stone you’d have found another smaller fake rock inside,
Marilyn’s Russian nesting doll of home security, containing
a shining gold Kwikset duplicate of her front door key.

“Where else would I go looking for my fake rock but right here
under the fake rock?” she laughed the night we got drunk and
locked out. She’d brought a guy home with us, a tall Gym Bro
who spends whole afternoons straddling glimmering machines.

Marilyn lifted the big rock, pulled out the hide-a-key, then lead us
single file to whiskey, ice and plastic cups. Two weeks later she asks:
have I seen her laptop? Closer inspection finds a DVD player and
noise-canceling headphones missing, matching the ones worn by

Gym Bro earlier that day, repping out his latest set of crunches.
Two weeks later he loses his apartment; she offers a spare room,
a green light to begin sleeping in hers. Marilyn doesn’t struggle;
she gets a new gym membership, stops returning calls and texts.

Four months pass before she emails: meet me at Jack in the Box!
The glare of a backlit menu reflects in her clear eyes; she forgoes
her usual Ultimate Double Cheeseburger with fries and Diet Coke.
“I’ll have a Southwest Salad,” she tells the cashier, then draws out

a well-worn Visa card. “I’m going to start doing things that are
good for me.” She recites a series of recent failures and pulls open
five tiny white tubs of ranch dressing before asking the cashier for
five more. She digs in, pushes dripping lettuce into her mouth, and

Flutters her eyes in ecstasy. “God. New beginnings are so delicious.”

Matt McGee

writes in the libraries of the world from Stockholm to Southern California. His short story 'Unseen Among Kings' recently received a Pushcart nomination. His new collection, How I Learned to Love Joyce Carol Oates, is available on Amazon.

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