Beth Manca

Issue 2: Flash Fiction

Messaging

All week long I’ve been planning to invite you out on dates, things I imagine you wouldn’t do under any circumstances. A moonlight canoe trip along the Charles (your bad back precludes rowing), a dog-walking art tour of the De Cordova (you’d see someone you know), a picnic at Walden (an ocean purist, you detest ponds). But I’ve lost my nerve every time, limited myself instead to one innocuous text message each afternoon to which you promptly replied with dutiful succinctness.

In this way I’ve learned that nothing’s up, the rain’s stopped there, you’re working hard, hardly working, just off to Whole Foods.

What I need is to hear you say no to me. Why do you refuse to tell me that you want me to go away? I pitied you your complaints about your crazy wife during our short weeks of passion, admired the past restraint you’d shown, standing silent as a stone when she’d thrown your phone into the bushes, screamed obscenities, frightened the dog. I tell you now your silence screams louder.

So this evening as the dark night sky hangs over the treetops like a curtain waiting to fall, I sit in my car across the street from your house and observe until you appear, blurred through my grimy windshield, fragmented by your own front windowpanes, a flickering supernatural creature in the light of the TV, feet up, comfortable, relaxed.

In just a moment my shoes will step out of the car, the precise arrows of your herringbone brick walk will point the way to your door, my fingertips will rest on the cold brass knocker. I’ll raise and lower it three quick times, rap-rap-rap, tapping out the first letter of the international signal for distress.

Beth Manca is a Latin teacher living outside of Boston. Her fiction has appeared online in Carve Magazine and in the May 2020 issue of Scribble.

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