Body Noises With the Door Open

She was mad at him for smoking on their vacation. He said, “Come on, it’s a vacation,” and tipped his ash into one of his empties.

On the way to breakfast she caught him eyeballing one of the other hotel guests, a woman wearing brown capris and a cream tank top. Tan freckled chest. “Can you be a little more obvious?”

They spent the rest of the day by the lake, sitting on wooden deck chairs. She had a stack of Better Homes and Gardens. He watched her read for a while. He felt like smoking but not the disapproval. He fell asleep. When he woke up his forehead stung.

It felt crispy when he blinked or moved his eyebrows.

That night he was in the bathroom with the door open, shaving off the prickly vacation beard that was wrecking all of his chances for sex. She was on the couch, watching a repeat of Friends they’d seen together in the ’90s.

His chin and cheeks smooth and clean, a third of the way through his mustache, he put the razor down on the counter. He watched his own face in the mirror as the gas built up in the base of his throat, until it couldn’t be contained. He let the burp out; let it out as loud as it wanted. The laugh track on the TV started up a second later, the timing impeccable, and it made him laugh, too. He opened his throat and allowed more gas to surface. Forced out a second burp, this time uttering some passable facsimile of the word “burp” with the burp. The TV failed to comply this time and his thoughts turned to finding an excuse to go get something, anything, in the car so he could smoke on the way to it and on the way back. He sniffed, snorted, horked, and spat in the sink. He belched again without really noticing it.

TV muted and she went after him from the couch. Said she was disappointed in him. That he only thought of himself, making body noises with the door open. The people in the next room were out on their patio—she said she could see the candlelight glow—and with the patio door open they’d probably heard him.

He felt sorry for himself, having wasted a perfectly good vacation beard.

Mark Paterson is the author of the short story collections A Finely Tuned Apathy Machine and Other People's Showers. He is currently at work on a new fiction project and is leaving the door open for several more in the future.