Funny thing: I just learned that I was long-listed for a flash fiction contest. Here’s the 500-word or less piece I submitted:
You called in late for work again. When I overheard Robin ask you what time you thought you’d be in I tried to guess why you were going to be late. Did you maybe have a doctor’s appointment? Or had you, like so many other mornings, overslept? But then Robin said, “I’m sorry,” so I figured it was something momentous and I stopped silently swearing at you for showing up late for work all the time, and making me have to slice and toast and smear and wrap bagels faster than I want to so early in the day. To be honest I almost called in this morning, too, because damn did I ever stay out late last night all because Tripp asked me if I wanted to go see Rough Francis play at the Monkey House and I went and stood next to him, dancing in place, waiting for him to turn his attention from the stage just for a second or two to see if I was having a good time or did I want another drink, but it wasn’t until the show ended and he finished whooping his right fist into the air that I think he remembered he’d brought me along.
Marvin, the old guy with eyebrows so bushy that you once suggested he kept his spare keys in them, just walked in and asked for his usual and I hesitated before telling him that I had no idea what his usual was, and that even though we look nothing alike because you’re tall and skinny and I’m, well, I’m not, he must have mistakenly thought I was you because you pretty much know everyone’s usual and I don’t because I’d like to think I have more important things to do than memorize people’s bagel preferences, but instead of just coming right out and saying I’m Sarah, not Gwynn you idiot, and I have no idea what your usual is, I covered my face with my hands like I was all embarrassed and said, “Oh geez, I am so sorry, Marvin, but I’ve totally spaced on your usual,” and he laughed and said, “That’s okay; pumpernickel, toasted with smoked salmon schmear, please,” and after I handed him his usual I was glad I held off being rude even though I hated him and his stupid eyebrows, because you once said that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar, and besides, Robin was watching me from the register.
You never did show up, so after wiping the counters and mopping the floor I started walking home and when I passed by Manhattans I saw you sitting at the bar so I went in and asked you why you were drinking so early in the day and what’s in that small velvet bag next to your beer, and you said because you were sad, and it’s the ashes of Shelley, your cat, and so I hugged you and said I hope I’ll see you tomorrow.