Spring 2017, Volume 22

Fiction by Anthony Ilacqua

The Sunbather

For whatever reason, the process was tremendously easy. It was easy to conceive, it was easy to implement, it was easy to follow through.

Now, all that was left to do was to relax under the big umbrella away from the sun and sip lemonade. This was Thursday, midday, and the pitcher contained about a half a liter of vodka. “Oh Sylvia, you very smart thing,” she said to herself.

The pitcher rested on a small table constructed from an old realtor's sign and a milk box. They were things from the front yard that she had brought to the back.

The place, in complete disarray, was no match for the other dirtbag bank repo houses in the neighborhood. The economy, or whatever everyone liked to call it, meant less and less everyday too. There were no more deliveries to the house at 1832 so even the milk box would not be missed.

The table, also in shade, rested to her left under the large umbrella, complements of a franchised coffee shop patio a la three AM. On the table next to the pitcher was the old mayonnaise jar, lid intact, where she kept her cigarette butts. They all had turned from white paper to yellow because of trapped smoke and carbon monoxide in the jar once the lid was screwed down tightly. They were dingy yellow save for the bright, bright red lipstick on each butt in varying degrees of intensity due to the time of day she had smoked them.

It had to be that way, the butts in the jar and all. Open area that the backyard was and the intensity of the sun were not a good combination. No, and the Kentucky Bluegrass was no match for the heat and sun and summer of Denver either. Not to mention no one had cared for the backyard, certainly not the bank, for months. Yes, if there should be doubt, remember this: Americans do live in squalor and the lack of care given to gardens is the only proof needed for poverty.

Needless to say, one smoldering cigarette butt would be ample to start the whole place ablaze.

Next to the mayo jar turned ashtray, stood the box of smokes complete with the tampered-with childproof lighter. The book, a Russian novel, was proudly showing its spine as it lay upside down next to all the other stuff on the table. The novel's page was held open to where Sylvia had been reading it.

Sylvia rolled the lipstick over her lips and looked into the metallic cap. “Yes,” she said. She smiled and checked her teeth for stray bits of lipstick. “You very delicious thing, you,” she said. She dropped the lipstick with a clank on to the sign-table. She rolled her hands down the length of her body as she stretched out on the rubber-tubed chaise lounge. “Oh, yes,” she said again. She adjusted the sides of her bikini over the patch between her legs first then to the sides above her hips. She pulled and tightened her top and took a second glance down. She pinched the cloth above hers nipples to even out the bikini top.

“You just didn't think it could be so good,” she said.

She sipped at the lipstick coated straw of the lemonade. The burn of acid coupled with the vodka gave her goose pimples despite the heat. “Oh, shit,” she whispered. She adjusted her sunglasses.

She grabbed the box of cigarettes in a languid way. She held the box as she picked up the mayo jar. Unscrewing the top she smelled the burnt tobacco and stall smoke instantly. Her head came off the back of the chair and she buried her nose into the jar. She took a huge sniff.

Her shoulders tensed and then relaxed. She quickly lidded the jar and placed it back on the table. “Nope,” she said as she pulled a cigarette from the box and put it in her lips. “Not going to quit today.” Yes, it had been easy.


The whole thing had been easy. The steps were all easily executed and all on the same day too.

She canceled her cellphone service. She neglected to write the numbers of her contacts down anywhere. And since this was the digital age, she didn't have a single number committed to memory. She didn't even have Matthew's number memorized.

Matthew. Won't he be surprised to see all her stuff: her clothes, her bathroom things; her magazines, her nonfat pineapple yogurt in the trash? Not nearly as surprised as when he finds the lights out, the water off and her name off the lease.

He'll probably try to call. Poor Matthew.

He'll call others. They won't know anything. They won't know anything since last Monday when she deleted all of her online profiles thereby ending all of her relationships with all her virtual friends.

Poor Matthew, he'll call her office. They'll be confused. She put in a three week notice, didn't he know?

It will kill him, not because she left, but because she left without a trace.

“Not now dear,” she said. She pulled the Russian novel off the table. “Got some reading to do.”

The place was unbelievably quiet, especially for a downtown type of neighborhood. A couple of sirens went by a few streets over and she wondered if they had built a new fire station nearby. Not a bad thing to know, especially if the possibility of fire increased.

She vowed to be especially diligent with the mayonnaise jar.


Sylvia looked at the rotting cedar fence on the north side of the backyard. Amy's house was just on the other side of it. Amy was a good friend when they were kids. In the summers past, in their youth, they called to each other from their respective bedrooms. They used paper cups and string.

Amy's mother had been dead for a few years. It was the last time she'd seen Amy. Amy had grown unhappy and fat. Apparently even Amy hadn't seen her mother in a long time. That house, too, like every other place on the street, and for several surrounding streets, was repossessed, bank owned, short sale listed, foreclosed, everything.

“Poor Amy,” Sylvia said. Turning forward in her seat again, she dropped the book in her lap.

The sirens vanished, and then a jet moved overhead, a loud one whirling toward DIA, or possibly away. “Yes,” she said. “Tomorrow I'm on my way.”

She picked up the bag at the foot of the chair. She dug around the few things inside of it.

She colored her fingernails. Red. Red. Really red. OPI’s I’m Not Really A Waitress red. Why had she stopped with the really red? There was no sense in it. She was a confident woman, right? She was sexy, especially at her age. She should wear red lipstick and red fingernail polish.

She admired each nail by holding out her hand. The five fingernails slowly became the color they needed to be. First, they were five freshly removed beige painted fingernails. Five natural fingernails. Then one became red, bright red with four natural ones. Then she paused to admire two red, three natural ones. The heat of the day, even in the shade of the big umbrella caused the nails to dry fast.

She lit another cigarette using the same process as before: lipstick, sniff at the jar, a commitment of not quitting today. She did this after painting the nails of the first hand.

She sipped the ever warming lemonade all the while.

Once the glass grew empty, she threw it. It hit the cracking dry clay soil with a thud and rolled away and shimmered brightly in the sun.

“Well, down the hatch,” she said as she picked up the pitcher. There was a level of two or three inches in the bottom where the darker liquid settled under the melted ice at the surface. Once it was drained, Sylvia tossed the pitcher like she tossed the glass.

She finished painting the nails of the second hand.

She smoked another cigarette as her fingernails dried.


The car became a problem. She could leave it in the driveway of the abandoned house. It would be poetic, in a way. When discovered it would quickly make its way back to Matthew. When asked, he would be forced to tell whoever had found the car that yes, she'd been missing and yes, that the abandoned house had been her childhood home. It may be poetic, but not mysterious enough. The fact that the car and then the backyard nest would be enough for Matthew and all those thinking about it to know that she had left of her own accord. Aside from any long term implications, leaving the car there would mean she'd have to walk out of the neighborhood and that too was not a very good idea. Terrible things happen to whole neighborhoods of abandoned houses.

Sylvia dressed slowly as she stood in the direct sun for the first time in hours. The vodka had done its job, but she was already feeling hung over. The hangover was more than just the lemonade. The hangover had been going on for a long time.

She left the umbrella. She left the chaise lounge. She left the milk box and the sign. She left the mayonnaise jar of butts and the empty glassware. A realtor, probably the one named on the sign, may or may not clean it all up.

She took the car through the old neighborhood and then through Five Points. Even when she was a teenager and Five Points was deemed a bad neighborhood, she still enjoyed it. The black folk are almost all gone now, mostly, and replaced by the urban dwelling hippie kid.

She drove up to California Street which made a straight shot downtown.

The clock on the dash of the car read 3:38. The heat felt like it too. “Prefect,” she said.

The car? Seventh floor of the parking garage. There's no way they'd care. It'll take months for them to say something. When they find Matthew, the bill will be in the thousands.

Sylvia held it together at the hotel's desk. “Wake up call Mrs. Beck?” the deskman asked.

“Yes,” she said reflectively. “When does the first airport shuttle leave? No, forget it, just call me a half hour before that, I don't care what time that is,” she said.

Sylvia waited patiently for him to finish typing on an unseen computer. “Okay,” he said dragging it all out. “Everything's set.”

Room service. Wine. Television on. All and all, not bad.

“You very smart thing Sylvia,” she said as she blew her hair dry. She held the hair dye box, Honey Wheat, up to her hair. “Not bad,” she said to her reflection in the mirror.


She slept a dreamless night, restfully unaware of others in the world.

The phone rang.

She went about her way through the dark.

Outside she decided to forgo the coffee, as she checked out and waited for the airport shuttle.

DIA and everything about it proved delightfully uneventful.

Then, she exhaled loudly as she settled in her seat on the airplane. She watched the other passengers as they boarded the plane and waited for the one to sit next to her. She rehearsed what she'd say when asked about her trip to Mexico. “A change of pace,” she'd say. That was one answer. And another answer might be: “Going down to have a reunion with some girlfriends.” And yet another thing to say: “I'm going because Mexico was the last place I remember being happy.”

 Sylvia rolled the lipstick over her lips and looked into the metallic cap. “Yes,” she said. She smiled and checked her teeth for stray bits of lipstick. She nodded. Her resolve, this act, the bright red lipstick, it was all perfect. “You very delicious thing, you,” she whispered to the lip's refection.

She relaxed and felt her body sinking into the airplane's seat. The plane was moving forward. She was moving forward, and what a feeling it was.




BIO: Anthony ILacqua's third novel Warehouses and Rusted Angels is forthcoming from Ring of Fire Publishing. His former novels, Dysphoric Notions and Undertakers of Rain are both published through Ring of Fire Publishing. He is editor-in-chief for Umbrella Factory Magazine that he co-founded in 2009. Anthony's blog: anthonyilacqua.blogspot.com .