Missing the Next Inch

Missing the Next Inch

On day three thousand five hundred and six of their marriage, he was thinking of what it might be like to run off to Vegas with a lesbian pool shark and she was wondering if vodka was allowed in heaven when a crack appeared in the ceiling of their sedate brownstone.  He stood under it, flesh rolled at his craned neck, eyes squinted.  Something new in this old house he hadn’t seen before.  He shouldered the ladder in from the workshop and climbed up three rungs to get a better look.

“It’s coming apart,” he told his wife.

She toweled her hands dry of dish suds.  “Oh sweet Jesus.” She fluttered her fingers at him.  “Off. I want to touch it.”

Each day the crack grew.  One night an inch, the next a half or three.  They discussed whether the crack would split and shatter or persist in a straight line.  They slept in shifts so as to not let slip their witness and miss the next inch.

At three feet, the crack began to widen.  She made a cot under the gap (they called it a gap now) and slept directly under the creeping black smile, kneeling each night with her hands clasped around the cross dangling from her neck, her face furrowed like the top of an oven roll in hardy prayer.  She left the gap only to relieve herself, waddling back, tugging her underpants up with both hands.

At six feet long, he declared it a problem.  “Let’s call someone.”

His wife patted the air angrily.  “Shush.  Don’t scare it.  As soon as it gets large enough, I’m climbing inside.”

The husband didn’t know how to reply to this, so he sat next to his wife and set up his own cot behind hers so that they could pass the night together listening to the gap further split the sheetrock.

The house groaned with effort.  Nights and days of shuddering rattlecrack.  Books toppled from shelves.  China clattered in listing cabinets.  Sour-still air from the attic fumed from the gap.

One night the woman slapped her palm against her forehead. “Of course!  Our house is giving birth.  Our house is bearing the Savior.  I always knew I’d be chosen.  I told you.”

The man made a rude noise and picked at his fingernails.

She spread her fingers on her belly.  “God has willed our house to birth the new Christ.  You wait and see.”  Her finger wagged at the gap.  “What does it look like to you?  Huh?”  She gestured at her crotch.  “That’s what.  God has shaped the gap in the form of me.”

“You’re the Lord’s stunt cunt? Is that it?”

She fisted the cloth at her belly and turned away.

One night they woke and saw through the gap a sky starblown and wild with light.  She sat straight up on the cot, her face wonderful with alarm.  “It’s time,” she said.  “We have to climb up there and pull the Savior out.”

The gap was now seven feet long and four feet wide, the two halves of their house canted at opposing ill angles.  The man stood with both hands on his hips, elbows red and jutting.  “Wouldn’t he just fall through?”

A flush of anger stained her cheeks.  “You are the most foolish man I know.  It’s a breach birth.  The Savior must be helped.  I’m going up.  I’ll be the one to pull Him out and fix what’s wrong with the world.  There’s plenty wrong for sure.”

She’d always been taken with these fancies.  One morning she’d found His face scorched into toast.  Another night after cocktails, she ground her lipstick into her palms and called it stigmata. “Whatever,” he said, rolling over in the cot.

She climbed up three rungs on the ladder, four, five.  Near the top, she stretched her arms but still could not reach the gap.  One more step up near the top of the ladder.  It wobbled as she slid her foot onto the rung and surprise squirted from her mouth, breath knotting fast in her throat.

The attic was silvered in moonwash, but she could not discern the Savior yet.  She looked down at her husband on the cot staring at her. “Are you going to help or not?”

“That’s the biggest ladder we got.”

“Come lift me up.”

He huffed at her.

She huffed back, hitched up her skirt, and climbed to the last step, straining her arm, her fingers vibrating with effort in the star-filled gap.  When the light graced her hand she thought she was going to make it, that perhaps she should jump for the ledge, but the ladder lurched and she clutched the top, dropping down a rung, her belly convulsed with fright.  She climbed down, scraping her shoes against the rungs, pleased when he cringed at the sound.

On level ground again, she told her husband that tomorrow she’d find someone else to help her.  The husband shrugged and shoved his cot a couple of feet away from his wife.  He sat, thinking of eight-balls swallowed by pockets and thighs rashed with felt burn.

When they woke the next morning, the gap had narrowed and shortened.  They considered that perhaps they had been tired, that it hadn’t been as large as they previously thought.  It’s the dry soil, he explained and she crossed her arms, grinding her teeth behind tight lips.  The next day brought further contraction and within three days the gap had shrunk to a crack.  We’re saved, he said.  They decided to move back to the bedroom and cleared out the cots and folded the blankets and returned to their life the way it had been before the crack appeared.  The day after that, the crack was gone.

Read more about Brad here.


  1. Hunter says:

    Good stuff. Always a fan of Brad’s work.

  2. Roxane says:

    This is a fine story, Brad.

  3. Brad Green says:

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  4. Vaughan says:

    Absolutely adored this story. Captivating and, best of all, surprising at every turn.

  5. Brad Green says:

    Wow, Vaughan. Thanks so much!

  6. Ethel Rohan says:

    Congratulations, Brad. Terrific, original details throughout, and an ending that was surprising yet inevitable in the best possible way. Well done.

  7. Brad Green says:

    Thank you, Ethel!

  8. Johnsie Noel says:

    So finely crafted and wildly creative.

  9. Brad Green says:

    Thank you, Johnsie. What a cool name you have!

  10. sue miller says:

    oh, hells yeah.

  11. Brad Green says:

    Thanks for reading, Sue!

  12. Landon McAllister says:

    Fantastic, Brad! How Chaucerian.

  13. Brad Green says:

    Thanks, Landon! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

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