I Was a Man Who Breathed


I Was A Man Who Breathed
by Chris Milam

She was statuesque with a face that could make a soulless man swoon. Or a soulless woman. Skin as flawless as fresh paint. Eyes that were hard and shiny like two freshly minted coins. A swagger that told stories of busted hearts. My gut thought she could be trouble for a certain type of man. The type of man who breathed.

I handed her the images. Mrs. Calloway scrolled through the pictures with the flick of a French-manicured finger. Photos I had taken at a café on Dickerson. A man and a woman. He was the fidgety sort, his body a vessel for slippery tremors. The woman wore an expensive necklace, a rope of diamonds with a pendant hanging down to her cleavage in the shape of a pear. She smoked skinny cigarettes and ate her plate of poached eggs with bird-like thrusts.

I was only tasked with obtaining pictures and an address. I had followed them to a bungalow on Plum street, a glitzy place of shadows with greasy contours. It was a night of gas station coffee and jazz on the radio.

She handed me an envelope with my name scrawled in lipstick. I fingered the green bills inside as she floated out of the room. I was a man who breathed.

A week later I sat in my office reading an article in the local rag. The woman from the café, the same one in the photograph and also missing a pear around her neck, Elizabeth Rooney, was found dead on the waterfront. One witness saw a lanky woman gliding away from the scene, stiletto heels clicking on wet asphalt. She smelled like France, the witness said.

I called my wife, Camille, and told her to meet me at the swanky bistro on Ludlow. Told her I had a gift that sparkled. I didn’t tell her how I got it.

Camille ordered blackened scallops and a beer. She took graceful bites and flirty sips. Her platinum bangs cut across her forehead at an angle. She winked at me with one of those emerald-smoke eyes.

A guy eating solo in a booth in the corner of the joint was fiddling with his camera. He seemed to be pointing it toward our table, possibly zooming in on something hanging elegantly from my wife’s neck. I smiled at the balding interloper and grabbed Camille’s hand, told her we had somewhere to be.

Chris Milam lives in Hamilton, Ohio. His stories have appeared in Lost Balloon, Jellyfish Review, WhiskeyPaper, Sidereal Magazine, (b)OINK, Molotov Cocktail, and elsewhere. He was nominated for Best Small Fictions 2018. You can find him on Twitter @Blukris.

Image by Cristian Uribe.