Tara Isabel Zambrano
It is late when it happens. Click, Cluck, Click. The sprinklers start and the water knocks on my bedroom windows. My eyes, still aching from sleep, watch the rain that emerges from the ground, reminding me of the time when my friend Abby visited with her boyfriend. We stayed up late, rotating wet hot dogs on the ravaged, black grill, nodding our heads and hips with the radio cranked to full until the sky was peppered with stars and the moon looked like a basketball squeezed tight between an arm and a hip. And we decided to sleep outside. After an hour or so, I caught sight of them bumping against each other on the surface of sleep and all I could do was cross my hands over my chest to feel someone was holding me too.
The sprinklers went off sometime after midnight.
Since then I have checked them several times. The dial to set the zones, marked buttons and the display to confirm the timing of the valves. Easy to use. No need to reprogram after a power outage. Rain sensors. But occasionally, these shiny pipes shoot out, unannounced. Then their perforated heads swivel like a ballerina. Water sputtering fsss.. around their sides, cooling the writhing grass and washing my bedroom windows as I roll into the spinster warmth of my bed hoping the splash to reach me and massage the knitted yoke of my neck.
I had called Doug, the Home Depot manager. Twice. He's the one who sold this machinery of black pipes running across the edges of my house, connected to slim, spraying cannons. What was I doing that day in Home Depot? Looking for gloves and bleach? A set of air conditioner filters? Right, I was in aisle six. Scanning bundles of garden hoses when he appeared- his face prickly with beard and a friendly smile, his hair slick as an oiled fish. The bulk of his body hid behind a grease-streaked orange apron and three hammers and two screwdrivers popped from the side pockets as if they were his extra pair of hands. As he led me past the potted plants and roses the size of portabella mushrooms, his dozen keys slapped on his thighs and I noticed the white elastic of his underwear peeking from the sinking jeans coiled around his ankles. His back with a thick patch of hair in the center showed up every time he bent. And I had an uncontrollable urge to squeeze his slim buttocks.
In the appliance section surrounded by dummy stove tops and female cut outs with straightened hair and long necks, I sat on an uncomfortable metal chair as he enthusiastically demonstrated the features on the panel. Under the cold, stark fluorescent lights, I wondered if he caught sight of that bald spot two fingers above my right ear. When I signed the contract, he squeezed my hand that had my blood rushing up my cheeks and into my head. Until I felt his ring digging into the palm of my right hand leaving a bruise as I crushed the list of items in the left pocket of my work pants. And the short sprinkler of desire went back to its default settings.
Now, I wake up several times and stare at the panel. Sometimes, I wish they start their madness and I have a reason to call Doug. The display shows the correct settings but who knows what goes on in that crazy heart with knobs and valves, the one that senses its calibration and yet feels compelled to perform outside its specifications.
Previously published in Cooper Street, 2015
Tara Isabel Zambrano works as a semiconductor chip designer. Her work has been published in Tin House Online, The Southampton Review, Slice, Triquarterly, Yemassee, Passages North and others. Her full-length flash collection, Death, Desire And Other Destinations, is upcoming in Sept 2020 with OKAY Donkey Mag/Press. She lives in Texas.