The Chort Wife

(Photo: A red velvet anatomical heart pincushion with antique scissors and a spool of pink silk thread.)

A followup (a prequel?) to Chort’s Suds.

*

The Chort Wife

The car careens around Gooseberry and Third, spattering gravel on my skirt.
I spit my grandmother’s curses at the receding taillights–I’d spent days embroidering that hem.

“And what will you give me, for ‘taking the car and that hellish music too’?”
A man stands in the intersection, smirking. He’s fiendishly handsome, in hoof-heeled boots, tattered red leather duster, and hair slicked up into horns.

Babula had chastised me for summoning chorts–my first husband was a devil, and my second, too—they always stole a piece of my soul but never stayed.

I eye his clothing. “I can mend your coat.”

“Done.” He licks his palm and extends it. I kiss my fingertips and shake his hand, sealing the bargain. He doesn’t let go. “The ‘always flavorless pierogi’ might cost you more.”

I laugh, my heart spinning a polka in my chest.

He leans closer, his whisper on my neck rough and warm as smoking coal. “I’ll take that skirt.”

I take him home. He takes my clothes, and the rest of me, in the most sinful ways.
I darn his coattails while nude, needle flicking stitches under his hot gaze. He’s hypnotized by the flashing silver as the parzenica patterns close the ripped hide with chain-stitched hearts. When I prick my skin, he sucks my fingertip, and other places too.

The next day he’s gone, to make good on our deal, but I’ve sewn my name into his coat in blood, and this time the devil will return.

*

Chort’s Suds

A sketch of an embroidered Slavic demon popping a beaded soap bubble.

A short story.

*

CHORT’S SUDS

The man had insisted on the carwash, half-off. “It’s my family business. Drop it off tonight, pick it up in the morning.”

I accepted, though it was my careless elbow that knocked his coffee cup onto my new car.

Now I stood in the empty lot of what used to be Chort’s Suds—the building boarded up and the signs taken down overnight—blinking in shock.

They hadn’t waxed and polished my car—they’d waxed and Polished it.

The sleek Nuova 500 had been transformed into a hideous Polski Fiat, elegant curves pounded square, pillars connecting roof and quarter panels at the hard angles of the Communist regime.

“We’ll get her in shape,” the man had said. I’d nodded and signed the discounted estimate. The pen’s red ink stank of gear oil.

I snatched the copy from the wiper on the front windshield, scanning each capital letter, wincing at my initials ticking the box marked Interior Detailing.

“My wife does that,” he’d said proudly. “She’ll take care of you.”

Embroidered felt covered my car seats, folk-art roses and roosters handstitched on black wool. I’d seen those same designs yesterday morning, on the skirt of the woman who shook her fist when I clipped the corner too fast on Gooseberry Street. My stereo drowned out her curses with rock lyrics.

I slid behind the wheel. A spiced babka air freshener swung from the rearview.

The radio blared as the engine turned. I frantically pressed the buttons, but every station played a Chopin mazurka.

*

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