Sobriety Test

by Kevin Tosca


Joseph kissed Holly’s dry thin lips. He would have had sex with her if she said yes. He was drunk. She was seventy-six years old.


In the morning, he thought about Harold and Maude, a film that once made his cousin sick, literally. He never understood that, that vomit, but as the hours passed—as he thought about those lips, that face, what he had done, almost done—he began to. He wanted to be okay with it, with what he had done, almost done, but he wasn’t. Holly’s face and lips haunted and nauseated him.


He tried to concentrate, tried to remember how much life was within that film, how much freedom was within it, wanting to be worthy of it. He fought the self-disgust and guilt, told himself about outsides and insides, shells and souls, about a body’s trajectory, its untrustworthiness, its insignificance, but he didn’t succeed.


Days passed and nothing changed. But then he thought about something he had never thought about before. He thought about a seventy-six-year-old man with his name and he thought about lips, a young woman’s lips, kissing his own, and he hoped that such lips would one day kiss his old and dry and disappearing lips, that he would have the courage to go further than Holly had, further than Maude had, to accept youth, age, death, sex and life. His insides, he thought, would be the same. His insides, he eagerly repeated to himself, would be exactly the same.


Joseph had to test it, so he called Holly, his friend, and he asked her out to dinner. Afterwards, he escorted her home and followed her upstairs to her apartment. He said yes to a nightcap, but after one sip he put his hand on her leg. He rubbed this leg, rubbed both her legs. He stood and reached for her hand, noticing how it trembled. They walked to her bedroom and she turned, laughing as if to laugh it away. Then she started to speak, but he said, “I want to,” and she got onto the bed, docile like a curious virgin. He followed her, put his hands on her fleshy stomach, then slid them down, unzipped her pants. She reached out to turn off the light. “Leave it,” he said.


“You don’t have to,” she said.


“No,” he said, as nervous as she was, “I need to.”

Kevin Tosca’s stories have appeared in FleetingLitroFlash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine and elsewhere. They have recently been included in Vine Leaves Literary Journal’s and Bartleby Snopes’s Best Of anthologies. He lives in Paris. You can find him and his work at You can also like him on Facebook. He’d like that.


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