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Today's Story by Martin Brick

To Reach Her Zipper

Fiction365 is taking a vacation this week, so we’re presenting a few (just a few) of our favorite stories from our first year.  We’ll be back with works of original fiction in 2013!  

This story first appeared on November 03, 2011.

She really likes the town.  Sure it’s small and there’s not a lot there, but it’s a college town.  Those are always good for a few bookstores, for a food co-op, for some semblance of a local music scene, for a handful of decent restaurants and a bakery, for people who want to be doing something and want the town to be something.  They’ll give things a chance.  She has to admit, the public’s support of her little theater has been overwhelming.

More than anything, she relishes opening night.  It gives her a rare opportunity to adorn herself.  Growing up in Minnesota, it wasn’t as if they were fashion plates or anything, but at least for church or Christmas or weddings a person could slip into a dress and maybe a tasteful strand of pearls.  A woman could feel like a woman.  She thinks of Minnesota every time she dresses for an opening, and recognizes an ironic twist.  She honestly feels as if she’s moved up a bracket, culturally speaking.  A twinge of guilt accompanies this thought, every time, because she does not mean to disrespect her roots.  Her parents and neighbors were the most wonderful people.  “I wouldn’t trade that childhood for the world,” she tells herself every time she dolls up.

But her new circle of friends are well-read, and well-traveled and such.  Their eyes are a little more open – food, cultures, that sort of thing, but also problems and causes.  They worry about the world.  But it seems as if their status has earned them the right to be casually chic, nothing more.  There in the mountains people wear khaki and denim everywhere.  A tweed sportcoat with jeans is the closest to dressed-up you will experience.

At the play’s opening she goes overboard, but being the producer, it’s her party.   She feels extraordinary in this black satin gown, long and tight, with a vintage silk scarf and onyx earrings.  She imagines herself a starlet: Judy Garland or an early Audrey.  Black and white.  Sophisticated.  She’ll be the first to admit, she has a nostalgia fetish, and most times when she’s dressing up she puts on thigh-high stocking with a garter.  Not for any kinky reason, at least none she is aware of.  It’s just that they seem to summon a bygone era, when sensuality was something iconic.  Sensuality was every woman’s secret right.  More a craft than a commodity.  More than tricks and tips touted in magazines by supermarket checkouts.

She wishes her husband were there.  Ian appreciates her moments of “elegant brilliance,” even if he is a Dockers type himself.  Cass tells herself this while making awkward contortions of her hand and arm to secure the zipper.  Ian always likes to do the zipper.  She likes him doing the zipper.  Every time he zips or unzips her, she thinks of either Hitchcock films or Minnesota.

But Ian the world-saver is preparing for a trip to Honduras, because he’s a lawyer concerned with third world labor conditions.  He was married when they first met at some benefit.  She wore a two-piece spaghetti-strapped bodice and skirt piece.  He asked to see the label of her gown, and when she let him, he told her the meager wages those workers received for stitching the garment.  He told her the likely ages of the workers who stitched the garment.   In retrospect she wonders if he meant to educate her or if it was just an excuse to touch her back.  Because, his fingers lingered on her spine.  They were cold from his drink.  Raised goose-bumps.  He smiled.  Ever since, the same thing.  If the man has a fetish, it’s a back fetish.  He likes to trace around her vertebrae with his fingers, tiny soft circles, the way most men would handle a breast or an heirloom pocket watch.

She only remembers this so vividly because she’s just been reminded.  Gary, a young man, maybe 24 by her estimate, who plays Lane, in The Importance of Being Earnest, just touched her back in a similar way.  With the cast party in full swing, he was going to the bar and wanted to know if she fancied anything.  Yes, he used that word exactly – Do you fancy anything?  A touch of humor, but also a subtle homage to Cass’s outfit.  If she wanted to role-play, he’d indulge.

For a few weeks he’d been after her to consider putting something by Tom Stoppard on the playbill next season.  She suddenly became so depressed and began to cry, and worry that her mascara would run and accentuate her crow’s feet.  It suddenly became very important that she was 38 after all.


Director of her own theater.

In some sleepy Montana town.

The people love it.


With a good man who loves her.

Who isn’t here this night.

Because he is important.  Thinks of others.

She’ll have to unzip her own zipper tonight.

Gary knocks on the bathroom door and asks what’s wrong.


Martin Brick’s fiction has been published in many places, including The Beloit Journal of Fiction, Vestal Review, Pindeldyboz, and Sou’Wester.  He was raised in rural Wisconsin, but currently reside in Columbus, Ohio.

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