I talk to no one and no one speaks to me. I’m a thief, but what bothers me more is that I am a coward. Folding becomes easier than unfolding. My belongings are sparse and now, become more than I can carry on the Fred Meyer pushcart I stole from the parking lot. It wasn’t actually in the lot, but near some outer limits of the lot where blackberries had begun to overripen. But still, it wasn’t mine and I took it anyway. No one saw and no one cared. Now I push it through city streets, and open lots, down alleys and around the pathways of parks. Lately they have banned wheels from the park, but I do it anyway. Breaking the rules is not as bad as stealing and it’s not like I’m the only one out here breaking the rules. They pass me by on their bikes, skateboards, roller blades, and strollers; I’m just one of them. I pass by unseen. This week, it’s been quiet. Too much smoke for the general public. They have all stayed home, but I’m still out here pushing the cart. I’m not part of the census. Air quality and prevailing weather has never been a factor in considering a change in habit. It is what it is, and I accommodate. I’m a regular at Green Lake in Seattle. This helps. Strangers, regulars who run and walk and bike, or run and walk and bike their dogs and kids, know my bench—everyone needs a rest sometimes. They leave me bags. Target bags filled with blankets, jackets, shoes—not always my size, but they’ve guessed right by going larger. The socks fill in the gaps.
Sometimes they leave biscuits and food. One time—a lady who jogs, and I’ve seen her often—slowed down in front of my bench. She had two macaroons specially wrapped in cellophane in her hand. It was the morning, and unfortunately, I had my zipper open to relieve a craving. I didn’t expect her. I think it shocked her and she dropped the macaroons and kept running, only faster. There was no time to explain, but like I said, I don’t talk to anyone, so it would have to go unexplained. When you live outside, you don’t have the privacy that others have. I still see her, and when I do, I always wish she had come later. Lately, I see a lot of people wearing masks, a few like me that don’t. Maybe they should if they have family, but I don’t, and I need every ounce of air I can muster to push my cart around all day.
Once, I had a family. At first, they made excuses for me. That was alright, I guess. When that quit working they set me up with drugs not really knowing what was wrong. It was after that I started hearing the voices and the constant ringing in my ears. I didn’t like that. They didn’t either. Sometimes I thought the medicine caused it so I stopped taking it. After a few episodes involving the police they quit on me and locked the doors. I’ve done alright out here. The voices have calmed but not the ringing. I used to think I was like my mother. Kind. Maybe I still am and she’s the one that changed.
Now I don’t know who I’m like. Would I recognize myself if I met me on the street? Or would I just see what other people see as they move past me—another transient being, using up the hours in a day. They work, cook, eat, go out, buy things at Target, drive, listen to the radio, watch TV, play sports, talk, cry, laugh, get mad, make plans to be with others, or stay alone, transient in the world until their molecules are done. It all seems the same from my point of view. I just do less. And struggle more. I see a commonality in the illusion of life. I’d like to find a person I could talk to, but for right now, I push my cart in the wilderness paying close attention to the daydream in my head.
Dominique is a native of Bordeaux, France. She lives in Seattle, Washington, and has spent most of her career involved in apparel and costume design. More recently she has turned her passion for writing and holds two literary fiction certificates from the University of Washington. Two of her short stories, Sunday Brunch, and White Car, have been published in the UW Anthology. Currently, she has just finished a Literary Fiction novel, When Angels Vanish. More of her writing can be found on her website at dominiquebretin.com.
Brooklyn, New York; autumn, 1972; nine-forty a.m.: Seamus Brennan descended two flights two steps at a time; serpentined one hallway around clusters of students; arrived in room 326 before his second-period classmates.
Amber Zuckermann — the luminous, pigtailed girl for whom Seamus Brennan saved a seat in room 326 — obsessed over the tawny liquid science teacher Mr. Demeroff spooned onto his tongue daily. Seamus obsessed, too. So he said. He’d say anything to see Amber’s pallid, fine-boned face fully turned toward his own ruddy countenance.
Two days later Amber whispered importantly to Seamus, “I noticed Mr. Demeroff taking two spoonfuls.”
Seamus pursed his cracked lips, imagined them pressed against the girl’s soft mouth. His innards somersaulted, but he said, evenly, “We must investigate.” Seamus said nothing more; he had decided to discover, on his own, if their teacher’s bottle contained a different kind of medicine. He thought, Amber will be impressed.
During his last class that day he eyed the wall clock repeatedly; three minutes before the scheduled bell he slid from his seat, edged toward the exit. Miss Schtauber’s voice rang out: “Seamus, where are you going?”
The sixth-grader: “Nowhere in particular.”
His teacher: “I hope no one in particular appreciates your promptness.”
Raucous laughter threatened to swallow him. The bell — finally — cut through the din. Still, the boys smirked. The girls made way. Seamus flew, embarrassed even more than his crimson cheeks proclaimed.
In search of the freestanding supply closet in the back of his favorite classroom, Seamus Brennan nearly bumped heads with Amber Zuckermann and — who was this — one of those boys smirking at him after Miss Schtauber’s careless remark?
How could Amber take up with one of them?
Seamus’s face turned the color of shame — crimson — once more. Amber opened her mouth, but Seamus wouldn’t halt to hear her words.
Girls! The hell with them!
He would never know the taste of Amber’s pillowy lips. What did he want with kisses? With Dublin girls, plenty. With Brooklyn girls? He wished to know — a lot. The faintest smile found its way to Seamus’s face.
* * *
Iris N. Schwartz’s fiction has been published in dozens of journals and anthologies, including Blink-Ink, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Fictive Dream, Gravel Magazine, Jellyfish Review, and Literary Orphans. Her second short-short story collection, Shame, contains Best Microfiction 2018-nominated story “Dogs” and was shortlisted by North of Oxford for recommended summer 2019 reading. Her debut short-short story collection, My Secret Life with Chris Noth (2017), was nominated for two Pushcart Prizes.
by Susan E. Rogers
She should have known better. A blind date – really? She only agreed because she was afraid her friend Joanie would be angry if she refused to go out with Joanie’s boyfriend’s friend. Never again. He was overweight and overbearing and he babbled endlessly about himself, his business, his golf game and his rich friends. His pudgy fingers stroked her arm, working for an invitation. Even when she whipped it away, he kept at it.
The waiter rolled his eyes and offered her a sad clown expression. His sympathy was the last straw. During after-dinner cocktails, she tweaked the little bit of courage she owned and excused herself to freshen up. He looked smug, thinking himself the victor. She got her jacket from coat check and sprinted out the door.
This wasn’t like her. At all. Margaret Mary Dempsey had been timid for as long as she could remember. An only child raised lace-curtain Irish on the other side of town, she was over-protected and lovingly provided for. Since graduating from high school sixteen years ago, she was sole administrative assistant in a one-man accounting office. No challenges there. She was never brave about anything. She made sure she never had to be. For every action she took, she worried about the consequences. What if she did the wrong thing, got someone upset or hurt their feelings? But, this guy pushed beyond her fear. She hadn’t known she could be so bold.
Then she was outside and scared to death, no idea what came next. She decided she shouldn’t stay in front of the restaurant or he’d be out to claim her. The sidewalks were surprisingly empty, even for a Tuesday night. There were a few cars, but no pedestrians. She rummaged in her bag for her phone to call a cab; her fingers fumbled against everything but. Her mind jumped back to placing it on the kitchen table after she checked the address of the restaurant. She didn’t dare go back inside. Then she remembered the bus stop beneath the clock and started to walk.
She gasped and stopped short, the soles of her shoes stuck like already-been-chewed gum. Her heart banged against her lungs. Her breath whisked around her throat. A hooded figure slithered from the shadowed alley.
“Got a light?” the young male voice slipped from beneath the hood.
“Ungh…” She hiccupped as air spewed past her tonsils. “S-sorry. Uh, I-I don’t smoke.”
“No worries.” He shuffled back to the alley.
Margaret gulped and moved on. The tap of her heels on the sidewalk measured the progress of her hurried pace. The shoulder bag slapped against her side in rhythm with her steps. She squinted to see the clock four blocks ahead. A landmark on its twelve-foot granite post, the clock itself was two feet wide, framed in wrought iron curlicues, back-to-back pearlized faces with engraved numbers and graceful fretwork hands. It guarded the corner, a stalwart guidepost erected for a now-defunct bank. The clock promised sanctuary, a haven from her fear. That’s where the bus stop was. That’s where she needed to be. Then she’d be safe, on her way home.
Eight minutes later the intersection loomed. She was half-way across before she saw him on the ground, his back leaned against the clock, eyes closed. Grizzled beard covered his grayish-brown face and clipped tight curls capped his head. She halted and panic tangled with anger. This intruder had invaded her sanctuary. She sucked up her bit of courage a second time and stepped over the curb.
“Hello?” Her voice squeaked. She cleared her throat. “Excuse me.”
His breathing was ragged and shallow. A blood-crusted gash underscored his left ear. She hesitated and then tugged on the sleeve of his dirty t-shirt, tugged again harder. “Excuse me,” louder, but he didn’t flinch.
Fear swept through her, not for herself but for this man, this stranger. There was no allowance for timid here, consequences be damned. She took off her jacket, gently placed it over his thin frame and tucked it behind his shoulders. Feverish heat accosted her hand when she placed it against his cheek. She stood with hands on hips as the noise of a diesel motor approached. The bus was a block away. She waved for the stop.
Air brakes engaged and the bus squealed in front of her with a whoosh of the opening doors. She took a deep breath and mounted the first step.
“I need you to call 911,” she directed the bus driver. She stood aside and pointed to the man.
“Lady, I ain’t got no phone,” the driver snarled. “Besides, it’s just a bum.”
“Then have dispatch call.”
“Lady, I got a schedule to keep. I ain’t got no time for this. Either get on or get off. I gotta go.”
“I’m not moving until you call.” Her legs quivered like jelly but she didn’t budge.
“I called,” said a voice from the middle of the bus. “They’ll be right here.”
A siren wailed up the street and Margaret stepped back to the sidewalk. The bus screeched away, out of the path of the rescue. Staccato flashes of eye-searing blue and red and white inundated the corner. The clock and the man were fully engulfed by uniforms. Margaret was exiled to the granite facade of the building. But she wasn’t afraid and that felt odd. She heard the man wheeze to the EMT on the way to the ambulance, “At the clock. Knew I’d be safe.”
“Ma’am?” An officer approached her.
“Just wanted you to know,” he said and touched the rim of his hat. “That man has dementia. We’ve been looking for him since he wandered away from home three nights ago. His family will be relieved.”
“Thank you.” She exhaled and looked up at the clock. “Do you know when the next bus is?”
“I think we can find you a ride.” The officer smiled.
* * *
Susan E. Rogers lives in St. Pete Beach, Florida, retired from a Social Work career in Massachusetts. Retirement was a catalyst for beginning her life-long ambition to write. Her other interests include genealogy and psychic spirituality, often twisting these into her writing. She has published and collaborated on numerous genealogical articles. She self-published her first book in 2018 about her own psychic experiences. In 2020, she had poetry and short fiction published in anthologies, and her work has appeared in “New Reader Magazine” and “Tampa Times,” and is pending publication in “Cobra Milk Literary Magazine.”
I sat side saddle on the bed beside my mother peeling the lid off a tub of ice cream. Her eyes had followed my movement from the door to the bed when I came in, seeing only a dark shadow. She hadn’t seen my face for ten years, the macular degeneration putting a cloudy wall between her and others, only allowing the periphery into her world. I observed her without her awareness. Resting in a reclining position on her hospital bed, she remained a picture of beauty even as she inched toward death. Dying had not stolen that from her yet. Faded blue-gray eyes gazed back at me, so striking against the pewter hair that framed the hollow craters in her cheeks.
Guess what we’re having for lunch today? She had rejected her lunch earlier, pushing the plate away almost as soon as the aide put it on the table. She paused to ponder the question. Then, she chuckled and gave me a devilish look. Ice Cream. She flashed a smile of genuine delight—an expression I had not seen in months.
Moments like this plunged me into my childhood. Before hospice care, my mother loved ice cream. I remembered the days as a little girl we drove to the Dairy Queen for a Sunday afternoon treat—a Dilly Bar for her, a chocolate dipped cone for me. She got a kick out of giving a vanilla sundae to our little Chihuahua, who stood on the dashboard shivering uncontrollably, licking the cup clean. We sat in the car eating our ice cream, pushing the dog’s cup back when it scooted too close to the edge.
Our days were spent keeping her comfortable. If she experienced pain, she received a pill. If her skin itched, I rubbed lotion on her. If she felt a chill, I pulled up the cover. If she slept, I sat by her bed. One day folded into the next while we waited for the inevitable.
She hadn’t been eating well and her strength was slipping away, unable at times to feed herself. Between her hands shaking and her poor vision, getting the food from the plate to her mouth was a struggle. For this reason, I visited with her at mealtimes so I could feed her. In fact, I enjoyed these times—this turn of the tables, a child feeding her mother instead of the other way around.
She brought bags of Reese Cups and Snickers Bars to hospice and put them in the nightstand by her bed. When I expressed concern over her eating sweets instead of meat and potatoes, the nurse looked at me knowingly. Don’t worry about it. Let her have whatever she wants when she wants it. I settled back into these words and conceded—it didn’t matter at that point.
I bought little tubs of vanilla ice cream—the kind she used to buy for me at Mr. Carson’s grocery store when I was a child, the ones with the paper lid that pulled back and the tiny wooden spoon attached. I kept them in the freezer in the hospice kitchen down the hall. In the afternoons when she awoke from a nap, I padded to the kitchen for her treat. It became our daily ritual.
After snapping a bib around her neck, I scooped the spoon into the rich cream and paused. I needed to forewarn her. Here it comes. She opened her mouth and waited. She sensed the spoon when it touched her lips and closed down on it, smiling at the taste of the sweet, cold confection. Like a baby bird, she opened her mouth for another.
* * *
Constance Camille resides in Florida with her Volpino Italiana furbabies where she writes creative nonfiction and poetry. Her idea of heaven is a good book and a picnic. An MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida, Constance serves as reads for The Florida Review and its digital component Aquifer. She served as editor of the online digital magazine South Georgia Today and is currently the book review editor for The Florida Review. She completed her poetry chapbook Other Shiny Things and her work has been published in The Helix Magazine, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, The Write Stuff Anthology, and Sundog Lit, where her poem was a finalist in their 2019 Collaborative Contest.
Lying on the side of the road, he waited for death or deliverance. His resting place: a small stretch of gravel and dirt sloping off the highway, scattered with weeds and a few puddles. He’d been propelled about two yards in and lay, casually contorted, facing a ragged wire fence. Every new movement shuddered pain through his body. Best to lie still. There was no way to know if he was visible from the road because he couldn’t even turn his head. The only option was to wait and listen.
A few flies irritated his eyes and mouth. Screwing eyes shut, his mind pushed away from this roadside perdition. He was at the top of the hill; sunflowers glinting in the dawn, smell of earth and cow dung in the air. Then ambling down to check the feed bins with Joe, always young Joe trailing along behind him. The farm’s daily life: feeding, watering, finding gaps in fences, all played out under a relentlessly fierce sun. This dry harsh land could be unforgiving and made no guarantees. His family knew to watch over the herd. If the cattle survived, so did they.
Now, as shadows painted the fence post black, would he ever see his family again?
Another attempt at movement shot quivers of agony through his back and legs. His dry ragged breath slowly settled into a metronome of waiting. Frogs croaked mournfully close by, and maybe… the distant hum of a car? He concentrated on the rumbling. Yes, definitely a car. Throbbing more distinctly, louder, and louder until finally, the vibrations of a ton of pounding metal pulsated beside him. Then it was gone, whooshing along the highway as the roar of the engine and his hope faded into the night.
The next morning was hot and full of flies. Another car. This time it slowed into the gravel and splashed a little muddy water over the back of his legs. It stopped. A door opened and heavy footsteps moved towards him.
“Chuck us the spray paint, mate,” a deep voice called, “This one’s gone. Not female. But we better spray it so nobody else needs to stop and check for a pouch.”
And with a swift movement, he leaned over the twisted carcass and sprayed the kangaroo’s fur with a fluorescent pink cross.
“Glad those warning signs are working so well,” the voice scoffed. “They hit the bugger two meters from the bloody roo crossing sign.”
* * *
Kate Maxwell is a Sydney-based teacher and part-time writer. She has been published and awarded in Australian and International literary magazines, such as The Blue Hib, The Chopping Block, Hecate, Linq, Verandah, Lightbox Originals, Social Alternatives, and Swyntax. Her first poetry anthology, to be pubished with Interactive Publications, is forthcoming in 2021. Kate’s interests include film, wine and sleeping. https://kateswritingplace.com/
by Pamela Cottam
The old woman’s hands tried to make a fist, enough to hold the quilt and bring it up to her chin. Her gnarled fingers and swollen joints bullied her, stark reminders of all the other things wrong with her body. She let go the fabric, waiting for the nurse to return to make her warmer.
In the quiet of the darkened room, she moved her toes and tried squirming her legs closer together. The maggots were gone from her legs and wrappings cuddled her skin with antibacterial cream and lotion, but she felt obscene – reduced to no more than a rugose, bedridden silhouette of who she was, still was, in her mind. Others bathed her, changed her spoiled underpants, and fed her like a child. Now she lay with legs sprawled out like a withered strumpet or thrown down tattered doll.
In her mind’s eye, she retraced the moments, the hours, the movements that took her from before she fell to the present. She’d been aware, she knew that; she’d savored every moment alone, functioning, independent, eschewing all offers of help from her children and the few friends who were still alive and cared. She’d avoided imprudent doctors and relatives who used their prying eyes for tell-tale signs of de-generation. At her house in Pittsburgh, she’d maintained her huge old home to keep social workers at bay by hiring help to keep up its outside appearances. She avoided visitors who might see the cracking walls, chipped paint and food bits that littered and grew hair in the foyer carpet, and music room couch where she slept and ate her food.
A heart monitor beeped…beeped.
A round, friendly face peeped through the doorway “Katie Murdoch, just checkin’ to say hello! I’m the night aide watchin’ over you tonight. I see you’re new.”
“My name is Katherine.”
“Right. Katherine. Well, nice to meet ya. I’m Carrie Ann.” Hair pulled tight into a bun at the base of her neck, the aide swished her trunk-like form between the bed and chair. With peasant, fat fingers she pulled the sun-bleached curtains together.
“I like the curtains open.” Katherine watched Carrie Ann pause and re-open them. The curtains blended in with the sky’s deepening gray and her falling mood. Carrie Ann had intruded on the solemn, dark cocoon she’d been snuggling into.
“We like to close the curtains at night so no one can look in.” Carrie Ann’s expression resembled the Stay-Puff marshmallow man’s, beaming with the vacant wisdom of her words.
“Yes. Well, I want to look out, even if it’s dark. If someone is stupid enough to stare at an old lady wearing a diaper who snores with her mouth wide open, so be it.” Katherine’s bony fingers opened, closed on the quilt under her chin. How much did this dismal place cost, and where did they get such stupid help. She shut her eyes in contempt.
The aide chuckled. “Are you warm enough, Katherine?” She squeezed between the cart and bed and stared down into Katherine’s face.
“I’m cold. My legs are cold. I need my legs closer ….”
With gentle hands, Carrie Ann squirmed her fingers under the old woman’s legs and shifted them closer together. She grabbed a blanket from the foot of the bed and unfolded it, taking care to softly pad it around the tumid legs swathed in antiseptics and bound with gauze.
Memories of squiggling fly larvae scavenging in the sera that burst from her swollen skin seemed too horrific to be real. Katherine wriggled with shame.
A tomb-like quiet and calm enshrouded her after Carrie Anne left the room and kept the door open a few inches. On the night before her fall, legs restless and hurting, she’d heard crickets and toads serenading the dark outside her living room window, while cars rolled over the cobblestones. She’d been sleeping downstairs on the couch in her music room, too tired and weak by the end of the day to make her way up the long staircase to the second floor. When EMTs found her two days later, sprawled outside her bathroom and covered with flies, her fevered brain imagined herself roaming the desert canyons of her youth, the sun burning around her as the descending scale of a canyon wren echoed against the red rocks and she breathed in the aroma of sun-dried sage.
Now she lay wrapped in a quiet of closed windows and controlled air in a hospital, events from different decades coalescing into a blurred collage in her mind as a helix of incontinence and disinfectant wafted in and out from the hallway. A silent, exhausted lament sagged under the weight of all her years and the truth of her failing body. If she could just muster the strength, regain her energy, she could find her way home. Maybe travel one last time to the desert.
Red lights flashed as an ambulance quietly rolled past her window, splashing a garish light display against her walls. It stopped somewhere near her room, between a pond with mallard ducks and geese she’d spied for an instant earlier in the day, and a wing of the nursing home. Katherine heard rushing feet and deliberately subdued voices from the hallway, and discerned the squeaky roll of wheels as a gurney revolved past her door and into the night. Too tired and sedated to care, but too aware to ignore, she wished the soul a happy journey.
What to do with the hours. She couldn’t use her feeble arms to lift herself in her recliner to see the ducks or geese she heard this morning but couldn’t see in the pond across from her window. Forced oxygen helped her breathing, and physical therapy for the past three days helped her to bend her ankles and stretch out her arms. She wanted to raise herself and walk, to poop and pee and wipe herself without pressing a red button for help. But her stubborn legs hurt like scraped skin and felt like boulders hanging from her hips, grounding her from even a cursory lift up from her chair to glance out the window at something other than the sky.
Yesterday and today she’d screamed at the therapists. Didn’t they see she was trying hard to walk, to get the hell out of the skilled nursing home she’d been forced to go to? She marveled at how little they knew when she mentioned items in the news. She doubted they had much training in anything.
Today she’d argued with the Head Nurse, who returned later to speak with Katherine. “Indeed, Katherine, we can ease up on the exercises. I just checked your chart and latest tests. If you want to slow down, that’s fine. It’s up to you.” Vindicated, Katherine scowled in agreement. Later in the day, an insidious question pushed forward in her mind: Did the easing of her exercises portend her recovery or demise?
Katherine waited for the late afternoon quiet to effect a slower pace of activity in the hall. Patients slept and she wondered if nurses did paperwork, so quiet did the hall become around 3pm. Today, waiting for the lull of voices and walkers and too-loud aides swishing down the hall, she wiggled her toes and circled her feet. Then, fingers shaking, she pushed aside her tray. One heavy foot down, she grabbed hold of the walker, tilting it forward from the side of her bed. Slowly, painfully she let the other leg slide down, her feet prickling as if she walked on needle points. From out of her bathroom she smelled her own soiled linen. Tears welled in her eyes as she thought of the smells in her beloved desert that wove in and around the very cells in her being.
Each small step along the floor toward her door hearkened back to the curving dirt path winding around the sun-scorched canyons of Utah. Indian paintbrush flirted its red petals in rocky outcroppings of sage and prince’s plume, swaying in the dry winds. Katherine listened for the peppercorn shaking of a rattlesnake. If she could make it to the red sandstone arch overreaching the path, she’d cool in its shade and rest from her hike.
Another foot forward. She inhaled deeply, a fluttering like a butterfly high in her chest. Sweat trickled down her curly gray hair onto her neck. She held firmly to her walking stick, and wondered at the spottiness of her hands and the ache in her fingers. She needed more air.
Stumbling over a loose stone, she flew head first into a rock, her walking stick tumbling down on her. Pain, heavy and cruel grabbed her chest. Closing her eyes, a dry breeze waivered over her and perfumed the air with sage. In the rocks above, a canyon wren flitted in the shade as its melody scaled down and echoed across the canyon.
* * *
Pamela Cottam is an emerging writer who has written a full length mystery novel, short stories, and children’s picture books. She completed her MFA, and received two scholarships for study. She received Honorable Mention from The Chautauqua Institute, Summer Literary Contest, 2019.
You: Sitting on the walkway railing of Westwood Tennis Center – court #1 – waiting for me. Your skin is a delicious olive color, even in October. Your muscular chest pushes your t-shirt out past your chin.
Me: Noticing that you’re more handsome than your Ok Cupid pictures.
You: Coming to net to get a closer look at me. Your smile is unusually wide.
Me: Asking the question that brings us together, “Why did you get a divorce?”
You: Saying, “My marriage, in the end, was crummy; she started drinking and gaining a lot of weight.”
Me: Hearing the word crummy reminds me of cookie crumbs. I flash on the crummy man I’m in the process of divorcing.
Me: Giggling and squealing when you hit balls into the corners, forcing me to run.
You: Delighting in my laughter.
You: Getting ready to move the date off the court to a sushi restaurant.
Me: Agreeing to dinner but wanting to shower and change first.
You: Offering to let me shower at your condo, close by.
Me: Wondering what you have in mind when you’re already asking me to come back to your place after an hour of tennis.
You: Telling me that you’ll be walking to your favorite sushi dive and will be waiting for me the
Me: Liking the look of the soft blue jeans, violet button-down, and brown leather shoes you’re wearing when you walk out of the restaurant to greet me.
You: Recommending the best dishes. Me: Realizing I forgot my glasses and asking you to order for us.
You: Calling the waiter over with a flip of your wrist. Your brusk manner makes me uneasy.
Me: Smiling at the waiter, assuring him that you don’t mean to use that tone.
You: Ordering an iced-tea.
Me: Ordering a glass of white wine.
You: Telling me about your job in finance, haltingly.
Me: Wishing you’d have a glass of wine, too. I talk about teaching.
You: Producing words seems difficult. Some of your salmon salad makes its way to the edges of your smile.
Me: Concluding that you’re not for me. Me: Noticing how stiff the conversation has become.
You: Paying the check and holding the door for me as we make our way onto the mid-evening street.
Me: Walking towards my car, sensing our imminent parting in my muscles. You: Pulling me close and moving in for a goodbye kiss… right on my lips. Me: Admiring how you pull me back to the physical so skillfully.
You: Readying for more kisses under a street light on Westwood Boulevard.
Me: Imagining friends, acquaintances, and even my two teen daughters, spotting us.
Me: Asking, breathlessly, if we can continue kissing at your place. You: Reminding me that you don’t have your car. Me: Driving us to your condo. Me: Sitting on explosions in my groin.
You: Smiling wider than before. Me: Noticing that your kisses are a revelation.
Me: Celebrating that our kissing tells a different story than the one I conjured moments before.
Me: Feeling, that after a long drought, you might be the one.
* * *
Risa Gechtman is a newly-married Los Angeleno, a veteran educator, a mother of two self-possessed teenagers, and a life-long tennis aficionado.
Marcel left the door open, so I followed him through to the other side. A silver intaglio serving plate decorated with pineapples and twisting vine leaves greeted me upon arrival. A dozen freshly baked Madeleines set me drooling; my fingers quivering at the touch, deep spongy cake texture begging to be dunked. Sadly, the lime blossom tea—ice cold.
* * *
Karen Schauber is a Flash Fiction writer obsessed with the form. Her work appears in 50 international literary magazines, journals, and anthologies, including *Bending Genres, Cabinet of Heed, Cease Cows, Ekphrastic Review, Fiction Southeast, New Flash Fiction Review, and Spelk. The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings* (Heritage House, 2019), celebrating the Canadian modernist landscape painters, is her first editorial/curatorial flash fiction anthology, winning ‘Silver’ in The Miramichi Reader’s “The Very Best” Book Award for Short Fiction”, 2020. Schauber curates ‘Vancouver Flash Fiction’, an online flash fiction Resource Hub, and in her spare time, is a seasoned Family Therapist. A native of Montréal, she has called Vancouver home for the past three decades.