A work of fiction where a melomaniac is subjected to the ultimate deceit within a relationship, a lover unexpectedly turning their back on a mutually beloved band…

by: Josh Cook

Rygert sat on the counter, cupping his pale ale like a votive candle. His dark hair curled up and over the rim of his bowler hat, which he wore, along with his bowtie, without exception, even when he slept. To his waxed mustache clung sea-white foam, giving him the air of an Old West outlaw in a Got Milk? ad. Those were Kasseigh’s words — she’d made the comparison at dinner — but instead of responding with his usual simper, he’d gotten up from the table, dumped his taco in the trash, and washed his plate in shriveling silence. 

“Let me sneak past you,” Kasseigh said, two clean glasses in her hand. 

Rygert not only held his ground, but also leaned back against the cupboard. From the wireless speaker in the living room, Bob Dylan sang of the changing of times.   

“I need in there, please,” Kasseigh said.

He locked his dead eyes on hers and slugged his drink.  

Gently, she set the glasses down next to him and brushed back her blonde hair. “Look, Ry. You’ve hardly said a thing all day. I even made your favorite — jackfruit tacos with lime and light soy — and not a single word of thanks. Did I do something to upset you?” 

“You know,” he said, in a lower-than-normal register, “what you did.” 

Kasseigh took a step toward the table. “No, I don’t,” she said, scrunching her face up. “What’s this all about? And why are you talking like Christian Bale’s Batman?”

“You. Know. What. You. Did.” 

“The only thing I know is that if you don’t stop waving that glass around, you’re going to spill it on yourself.”

“I don’t care,” Rygert said. Slowly, purposely, and looking at her the whole time, he dumped what remained of the drink on his owl-print button up. “And don’t pretend like you do, either. It’s not true. That much is clear after last night.” 

“What happened last night?” Kasseigh went to dry him with a paper towel, but he pushed her away. “I…I thought the bonfire was fun.”

“It was,” Rygert said, standing up on the counter and pointing a finger at his girlfriend of eight years. “Until I heard you and Jeffie Grantham whispering behind the kegerator.”

Kasseigh raised her hands up, palms out. “And? We didn’t do anyth—”

“‘I don’t know, Jeffie,’ you said, ‘but lately I’ve just felt like Radiohead doesn’t do it for me anymore.’ Words sharper than razors, Kasseigh. Sharper than knives.”

“Oh, yeah, that,” Kasseigh said, lowering her hands and wringing them together. “I’ve been meaning to tell you for a while. The Decemberists have come up a lot lately on my Spotify rotation. There’s something about their quaint instrumentation and lyrical wordplay that makes me feel at home. As for Radiohead, The King of Limbs and A Moon Shaped Pool are just a little too complicated for my taste.”

Rygert stomped on the Formica with his fair-trade boots, jolting the glasses from their perch and sending them to the floor with a crash.

“Oh my God.” 

“Oh my God, indeed,” said Rygert. The left side of his moustache shot up and out, like an arm signaling in semaphore. “What do you want them to do? Churn out one OK Computer after another? The men are artists, for crying out loud. They need to grow.”

Seizing the broom and the dustpan, Kasseigh swept up the shards from the checkered laminate tiles. “That’s not what I mean, dammit. I mean look at what you’ve done.”

“That is nothing compared to—”

“Why are we even arguing about this, Ry? We’re almost thirty now.” She dumped the broken glasses in the trash and slammed the lid shut. “There are more important things in life than a band, like finding you steady work instead of all these sporadic freelancing gigs.”

“There’s nothing more important than Radiohead,” said Rygert, “and they’re not just a band. Take it back.”

“Take back what I said to Jeffie? No way. I can’t take back what I feel in my heart, and you should understand that, if you love me.”

“I do love you,” Rygert said, his eyes now animated with anguish. “But if you can’t take it back, I can’t forgive it.” He leapt to the floor, smoothed his moustache, and clamped his hands on his hips. Then he said, “I can’t forgive it, Kasseigh, so it’s over between us.”

Kasseigh clutched her stomach, stumbled down into a chair. “What?”

“That’s right.” Rygert gave her a mournful nod. “You should give Jeffie a call. Maybe you can stay with him and cast aspersions on the album version of “True Love Waits” for the rest of your life.”

Kasseigh suppressed her vomit and, turning to face him, stood up straight. “I don’t think so, asshole. If you’re breaking up with me, you’re the one who’s leaving. The lease is in my name, remember, and I pay three-quarters of the rent.”

He put his hands together and brought them to his face. After a while he said, “You’re right, you know.”

“I’m not fighting with you about this anym — wait, I am?”

“Yes,” said Rygert. “I can’t afford the lease because I’m not the one with the steady marketing job. I could probably find one, or something that pays similar, if I went out and looked. I haven’t done that because I don’t feel like it. Because I don’t want to. Because thinking about it brings me down. That’s probably not the way someone who’s about to turn thirty should act. So yes, you’re right. I’m an asshole, I don’t act my age, and my life would really benefit if I realigned my priorities — but at least I don’t like Coldplay.”

Kasseigh shoved him back into the counter. His owl-print was still wet with the ale. She wiped her hands on her jeans and said, “Get out.”

“What? You do, don’t you?”

“Their earlier stuff wasn’t so bad.”

“Their earlier stuff was a naked vulgarization of the sound Radiohead had pioneered in their previous two—”

“Get the fuck out.”

“Okay, okay.”

Minutes later Rygert was in the living room with a hobo’s bindle slung over his shoulder. “I can’t find my copy of The Bends, so I’m taking yours. Hope that’s all right.”

“Hell no, dude. That’s my favorite. It’s staying with me.”  

For the first time in eight years — aside from when he showered — Rygert removed his cap and unclipped his bowtie. Then he pried the album from the bindle and tossed the rest onto a chair. 

“In that case,” he said, “mind if I stick around a little longer and we give it one last spin?”

“It’s too late for—”

Kasseigh couldn’t stop the tears from flowing down her cheeks. She took the CD from his grasp and placed a hand on his wet chest. “You mean like old times?” 

“Like old times,” Rygert said. “When things weren’t so — complicated.” 

They sat across from each other on the floor. Flipping off the wireless, Kasseigh put the disc into the stereo. They hadn’t used it since they’d moved in, and the sound was somehow different — clear and crisp, but also plangent, like a chord struck in the past for someone living in the present.  


Josh Cook is an MFA candidate at Lindenwood University. In 2009, he earned an MA from Indiana University with a thesis on Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan. He has published two pseudonymous novels, and his fiction has appeared in Fiction Kitchen Berlin and Sage Cigarettes. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and two dogs.

0 replies on “Separator”