This is one of those cases where I was on my way to somewhere else (which can be dangerous) and ran across these two short tales, that I believe are flash fiction. They continued to stay with me the entire day, and I decided that I would share them.
She stepped outside, equipped, if needed, with the lame pretense of retrieving something from the car. She walked leisurely, stopping to admire a flower, pull at an imaginary weed, rub the shaggy yellow head of her sweet mutt Roscoe, the more faithful male in her life.
Through the bedroom window she could see him, casually dialing the phone. He glanced once in her direction, or maybe not at all.
Good, she thought. Standing parallel with the dogwood tree is the perfect cover.
He hung up, looked down at the crinkled slip of paper in the palm of his hand and dialed again.
He's calling that—woman, she concluded, resigning herself to the familiar pain and fear usurping her stomach.
She saw his mouth moving as he shook his head and replaced the receiver onto its cradle. Looking again into his hand, he made a quick fist, then re-assigned it to his pocket.
They entered the kitchen at the same time. Grabbing a beer from the fridge, he sat at the table with a smile.
"Guess I'll stick around tonight, if that's okay. My brother wasn't home, must of forgot," he explained. He awkwardly fidgeted with something in his pocket, then laid his empty hand on hers.
Only then did she breathe again.
"Sure," she chirped, trying hard not to show her happiness, or uneasiness, or guilt.
"Want something to eat?" she busied herself in the pantry.
Deep breaths she told herself. You've won, don't be a wuss about it. Concentrate. Don't cry!
Standing straight, she blinked back the tears, swallowed the lump in her throat, lowered the neckline of her blouse.
He's mine tonight, she smiled as she fluffed her hair and reached for the ingredients of his favorite dinner, ashamed but grateful at what changing one digit could do.
He's an ugly little bugger. His chalky silhouette leaps from the red brick behind the mantle. Lyre in hand, he stares. Greg feels him, knows he's staring.
"You want some more wine?" Harry asks.
"I'm good," Greg says. "Why him?"
"Why who?" Harry answers, playing the twenty question game Greg offers.
"Nero," Greg says.
Greg thinks he's a pro. His style is smooth and unrehearsed. Harry likes to be daddy. Greg knows the schoolboy approach will boost the tip. He presses the glass to his lips, curls them in a slight smile and winks at Harry.
"Nero was my kind of fag," Harry says.
"Why is that?" Greg shifts to a more reclined position and takes off his shoes.
"He was openly queer and in charge of Rome," Harry says. "On his wedding night, he dressed as a woman and consummated his nuptials in public. He was brash, daring and everything I'm not." Harry runs his fingers through his gray hair and gives Greg a visual once over.
"How did his story end?" Greg tilts his head to expose more of his slender neck. He knows that it drives Harry wild. He looks again at the little statue, feeling a chill as he connects with the sightless eyes.
Harry has Greg over when his wife visits the grandchildren. It's the same every time. One night costs a thousand bucks, plus a tip. Greg is discreet, clean and looks like Harry's oldest boy.
"His own Praetorian Guard did him in," Harry says.
"Being queer has its drawbacks," Greg says. He pulls the tiny bag of cocaine out of his pocket, reaches in to draw out a small portion with a fingernail and takes a bump. He rubs the remainder over his teeth and gums. Harry frowns.
"He was killed because he was a lousy ruler," Harry says. "I wish you wouldn't do that here."
"It's performance enhancement," Greg replies. "Anyway, you like it when I'm a naughty boy."
"Don't give me any lip," Harry says and then smiles.
Harry leans over and begins to rub the inside of Greg's thigh. Greg sets his wine glass down on the coffee table and works his way into the corner of the couch. Greg's not gay, but he needs the money to keep the juice coming. He looks again at the statue. Somehow, he thinks, that little bastard secretly nods in approval.
"What are you thinking about?" Harry asks.
"You, of course," Greg lies.
Harry turns the lamp off. Greg can see the silhouette in the darkness. Nero is still peeking, Greg thinks. Greg is resigned to having an audience. Assassination or uncontrollable hepatitis, dead is dead. Greg and Nero have something in common.
Only Harry hasn't made the connection. He will soon enough. Greg reaches down and unbuckles Harry's belt. A job's a job and he never really bought into the wages of sin anyway. In the darkness, Greg winks at Nero Caesar.
He's almost positive that the little bastard winked back.
Those are both really powerful stories. It's amazing what can be said in just a few words.
Thank you Laurie - It's true, but I've found writing in that style is very difficult for me... :)
Again, as you go through what you're going through - these words are for you ... my thoughts/prayers are with everyone!!
(HUGE bear hug) ... b
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