flash fiction

Improbable Sunday

This one is for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Now Choose Your Title. The title comes from the previous week's challenge, which I didn't link because it's just creating a title, which isn't easy, but also doesn't make for much of a post. This is probably the first one I've done where I've felt it sounded like "me" if that makes sense. It needs an edit or two, and some filling out some of the characters, but this one, I like.


The thin line of warm sunlight crept across her bedroom floor from between the blinds and the window frame. The light started on the sill, then slowly, so very slowly, worked it's way down the wall, over a pair of flats which really ought to have been put back in the closet, over the grey tabby which had a gift for anticipating sunlight, up the side of the bed, finally reaching Beth's left cheek. Her eyes fluttered open behind stray strands of long brown bangs and she smiled precisely the sort of smile you would expect to find on someone who is tucked into a comfortable bed and is sleeping in on a weekend morning.

Which was a curious thing as just ten hours ago, it was Tuesday night.

Normally, when Beth was awakened by sunlight on the morning after Tuesday night, she goes from fast asleep to an abruptly upright position, adrenaline working more swiftly than any amount of coffee ever could. Sunlight meant she'd overslept, and "the morning after Tuesday night" meant "Wednesday." Wednesday meant having taking a shower in the dark, drinking something that bore no resemblance to a "shake" no matter what the printing on the can insisted, and driving half-asleep in to the office. 

Instead, she pushed herself up on her elbows, twisted her torso slightly, picked up her glasses from the night stand, and pressed the side of her iPhone. It read "9:17 A.M., Sunday." Sunday meant sleeping in, so she leaned out of the bed and stretched the curtains to cover the sunny little gap. The cat gave her a dirty look, stretched, and hopped up on to the bed, making biscuits in the knitted blanked bunched at the foot of the bed. Beth pulled the sheets back up under her chin, closed her eyes, and dozed back off, never even wondering why there was no date next to "Sunday" on her phone.


The fact that the day following Tuesday was, quite improbably, Sunday this week, was accepted by most people with surprisingly little resistance. In hindsight, perhaps it wasn't all that surprising. After all, when everyone knows and agrees that a day is Sunday, then arguing otherwise was just contrariansm and the people who adopted this position did so without any real hint of enthusiasm.

No, the heated arguments, the ones containing passion and tears, were reserved for the "how" and the "why" of the matter: "How did Sunday manage to wedge it's way in to the week after Tuesday, and why on Earth would it do so?" 


Luis was an old man ten years ago when they renovated the park in the middle of town. Figuring that "becoming a fixture" was a fitting thing for a man of his advanced years to do, and that "the park in the middle of down" was a good place to do it, he'd been spending most of his days on the benches, at the long-planked wooden tables, and on the crushed orange stone walking paths for a long time now. 

He was an expert on the ebb and flow of traffic in and around the park and could tell when there was going to be a special event like a parade, or when there'd been some sort of public tragedy, just by watching the movement around the park. Oh sure, he also read the news religiously, but if push came to shove, he could tell you a great deal about the local scene without doing any reading at all.

His morning circuit of the walking paths confirmed what he had felt when he woke up. For whatever reason, today was Sunday. Luis didn't really worry too much about it beyond that. Most days were pretty much the same to Luis, but Sundays were always nice since there were most families and fewer drunks in his park. An extra Sunday suited him just fine.

Making his way along the North edge of the park, something clicked. This was the main drag, the street where people who had some sort of romantic notion of local shopping bought books and antiques. There was even a little hardware store. The strange thing was, they were all closed. There weren't any blue laws anymore, but everyone was acting like there were. The only open doors on the street were those of Koval's BBQ and everyone knew that barbecue joints were closed on Mondays.

Luis tipped his hat to Rita, lovely Rita as he hummed to himself. His elbow didn't bark the way it usually did, and he slowly became aware that he wasn't favoring his left hip like normal. 

"Heya Luis! What do you make of this Sunday we're having? Damndest thing, isn't it?" Rita, forty years Luis' junior and all freckles and red hair that wouldn't stay in a bun if you used super glue, was the hostess at Koval's. Seeing Luis making his rounds always brought a huge smile out of her.

"Don't know. Don't know and don't mind an extra Sunday. Wish we had more of 'em." His voice sounded stronger, younger. "I'll tell ya a secret, though: This isn't just any Sunday," and he swept his arm down the street indicating the closed shops, "It's an old Sunday."

Rita just laughed because how the hell else do you respond to something like that?


The national, 24-hour news networks spent a lot of air time discussing Sunday because 24 hours is a lot of time and there really wasn't much else going on. It was proving to be a remarkably incident-free day, but incident-free doesn't make for compelling television. 

"If we don't figure out how this happened, how can we be sure it won't happen again? How will we prevent it from happening again?" The speaker was Robert Hastings, who was a popular guest on talk shows as he'd been the CEO of several companies, so he had plenty of credentials. He'd also been largely unsuccessful in those stints, so he also had plenty of availability. He was wearing his navy suit with a white dress shirt and a red silk tie, which is all anyone could remember him wearing.

"Why would we want to do that? What's so terrible about an extra Sunday?" Dr. Caroline Hsu was, in fact, an medical doctor, but when the network called her to appear opposite Mr. Hastings, it was because they wanted her insight as a former campaign manager for a New York senator. Not that either MD or campaign manager qualified her to talk about Sunday, but exactly weren't very many people who had experience in that specific and previously non-existent field.

"Caroline, even you can see what kind of chaos messing with the calendar could create." Dr. Hsu winced at the "even you" but held her tongue. "The NYSE is closed today. Closed! Financial reporting is going to be a disaster. It could take the markets months to recover."

"Mr. Hastings, how do you know that?" Dr. Hsu spoke slowly and carefully, a decrescendo to Hastings. She did this consciously, maybe to keep the discussion at a level she was more comfortable with, maybe to irritate Mr. Hastings. "Do you have any experience with Sundays appearing in the middle of the week? If you could share your data with us..."

"Caroline, you know we've never seen anything like this before. This isn't even possible, and that's why it's so important. If the markets were open, they'd be in chaos."

"But they're not."

"But they would be. How do we know that this isn't an attack? Maybe next time it will be a Monday."

"An attack? A weaponized calendar?" Even viewers with old, curved screen, cathode ray tube television could see Dr. Hsu's eye-roll even behind her vintage, cat-eye glasses. It was one for the ages. "Mr. Hastings, as eager as I am to avoid any additional Mondays, I can't imagine any way to interpret today as an attack."

"Well, Caroline," Mr. Hastings smiled, letting on that he was enjoying this, which he always did but seldom admitted, "What's your theory? How does Sunday end up smack-dab in the middle of the week? It's not possible, but it happened. How? Why?"

"I don't know." Dr. Hsu paused, closed her eyes, and took a breath. Did she really want to answer that? "I don't know, and I don't think anyone knows. Maybe Sunday just wanted to be here today?"

"That's pathetic," Mr. Hastings grinned, remembering his high school English just well enough to get his own joke. "The idea that a day could 'want' something, could even be aware of itself enough to move through the week. Where do you come up with these things?"


Ed went to bed last night at his usual time, but he hardly slept. He was a decade older than Dawn, but for some stupid reason, her health had failed before his. By the time they diagnosed the cancer, even though she felt fine, the odds of successful treatment were slim and they faded to none over the course of six short months. At first they were counting how many years she had, then months, then weeks. They were down to days now, and there weren't likely to be too many of those.

Ed did most of his crying alone, in the bathroom and the shower running, so Dawn wouldn't hear him. 

Dawn was the kindest person Ed had ever met and, even forty years later, he puzzled over what she saw in him. That was always the first word that came to his mind. She wasn't a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but when there was no one else willing to be kind to someone, there was Dawn. 

The hospital sent Dawn home with Ed last week. The cancer wasn't going to respond to the treatment, and cancer treatment itself is hell, so there was no point in continuing it. Dawn offered to stay in the hospital so Ed wouldn't have to care for her by himself, and Ed wouldn't hear of it because the dog missed her and because he couldn't bear the idea of her in a hospital bed any longer.

"Please just make it to the weekend," Ed thought to himself, but he knew that she probably wouldn't. They'd worked for decades, neither of them giving much of a damn about their jobs, but their jobs allowed them time off and let them spend time together on the weekends. Those were the best times, the times that counted and meant the most. When they walked, they walked together, in love, with a protective shield, like deep sea divers in their bathysphere. The world and all of it's stupid, sharp-edged, pain couldn't reach them when they were together on weekends.

And so, when Ed awoke on this unexpected Sunday morning, he did not expect to see Dawn in the kitchen preparing him breakfast like she did back when he used to say he didn't like breakfast. She'd always made it anyway, and he'd always loved it.

"I feel better today, honey."

"You look better."

"I think, after breakfast, I'd like to go to the farmer's market, and then the park. I think I can do that." Dawn looked back at Ed sweetly and said, "So get your lazy ass out of bed so I don't have to go by myself."

It was as close to a perfect day as Ed could imagine. Time was acting funny, and he couldn't properly tell what happened when, but they spent the day walking together, having lunch downtown, visiting the book stores, and just being Ed and Dawn. For the first time in months, just being Ed and Dawn.

That evening, when it was much later than they usually went to bed, Dawn nodded off to sleep. Ed made sure she was snoring, then got up, and went into the bathroom and started the shower.

"I don't know if you can hear me, but I think I get it. I bet tomorrow, it'll be Wednesday, and there won't be anyone even remember that you were here. Is that how it works?"

Ed was crying again. Happy, sad, and everything in between.

"I'll remember though, won't I? Everything will go back to normal tomorrow and Dawn and I, we'll be the only ones who remember.  I expect you've done this before, is that right?"

Ed grabbed a towel, wiped his face, and continued talking to Sunday.

"These last six months. They've been...I can't even describe it. I can't imagine life without her. Well, I can. I just can't imagine wanting it. And watching her, the best thing in my life, slowly fade."

"Thank you. Just thank you. You did this for us, didn't you? This means so much to me...to Dawn..."

He was now lost in his tears.

"Thank you."


This one's not a story, per se. Mr. Wendig's challenge  this week is to create a character in 250 words. For once, I've actually stuck to the suggested length, although only just. 


If you were to ask Cecil to describe himself, you wouldn't learn much. You'd get awkward, mumbled noises and few phrases designed to hide more than to reveal like, phrases like "I don't know, I'm pretty average, I guess.” You might better off asking his friends to describe him. If you did that, you'd find out that they all agreed on three things:

1) Cecil didn’t care much for the name "Cecil.” He spent his sixth grade year trying to give himself nicknames, but none of them stuck. His middle name was "Martin," but even Cecil couldn't imagine anyone calling him "C.M." He resigned himself to his fate when he was fourteen, but he's never been comfortable with it and he jumps a little when people call him by it.

2) Cecil doesn't like calling attention to himself. He's not the class clown; he's the guy who feeds the jokes to the class clown. He's not the only senior at the school who hasn't been on a proper date, but you can kind of tell he feels like it sometimes. He's reasonably athletic and he wouldn't be too unattractive if he'd do something about that bowl haircut and he could find pants that fit his 6’3”, 140 pound frame.

3) The strange thing isn’t that people tended to wind up doing what Cecil wanted. The strange thing is that they think it's their own idea.

There was not magic to this third item. Cecil was just a very clever boy.

No, you're not getting any hints from the picture. That would be cheating.

No, you're not getting any hints from the picture. That would be cheating.

We Are Nowhere And It's Now

So here I am, out in the middle of nowhere, and I have no clue what time it is although I'm not really sure that matters. The weird thing is that I'm pretty sure I just saw the most imporant thing in human history. 

Let me back up and explain.

This is a response to Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge of 6/26.

Go to your music player of choice, pull up a random song, and use that song title as the title to your story. You don’t need to make the story about the song or inspired by the song (unless you want to) — all you really need is the title to run with. On iTunes, it’s shuffle, I think, but if you google “play random song” you’ll find plenty of ways to conjure one from the chaos.

Write the story with the song title as your story title.

This sucker's gone through so many permutations so far, being a completely different story 3 days ago, that it's both a 13th draft and a 1st draft, so it needs a hacksaw to cut away huge chunks as well as some sandpaper to smooth it out. I like the story, though. I'll like it more, I suspect, the next time I go in and mess with it.


So here I am, out in the middle of nowhere, and I have no clue what time it is although I'm not really sure that matters. The weird thing is that I'm pretty sure I just saw the most imporant thing in human history. 

Let me back up and explain.

Last Spring, Tomas and I were going through a rough patch. More specifically, I thought he was being distant and evasive and I was acting like a jealous asshole. We weren't exactly fighting, but we weren't exactly not, if you know what I mean. Tomas was ready for it to be over and I wasn't. That's the best way to put it, even if it lacks poetry.

Anyway, like any guy raised on John Cusack movies, I did the only thing that made sense to my panicked mind: The Grand Romantic Gesture. One of those stupid blinking ads that should have been blocked popped up on the right side of some story I was reading. It promised a romantic New Year's spent at the South Pole, where, for twenty four hours, you could re-experience the new year every hour, on the hour. 

I clicked on it and, by some force of sheer luck, didn't wind up with any ransomware. Twenty thousand dollars and thirty minutes later (their site was as shitty as the ad you'd expect from a company using pop-up ads), I'd booked the two of us on a ten day vacation highlighted by "the Longest New Year's Kiss on planet Earth!" 

Of course I didn't tell him exactly what I'd planned, but I made sure he knew I'd planned something big because, otherwise, what's the point? As you might have guessed, with the relationship already on fumes in the Spring, a huge New Year's celebration was too much, too late. Tomas was emotionally involved with someone else and was reaching the point where he didn't care too much if I knew. Which is all a long way of saying, I took off from Baltimore, heading as far south as a body could get, by myself.

Ten days sounds like a long time to spend at the South Pole and it probably is, but we never found out because all but about thirty-six hours of your vacation package is travel. By the time the dozen or so of us got off the little ski plane, we weren't going to be too picky about where we finally stop moving for a little while. A good thing, too, as our romantic day at the South Pole was going to be spent in a big, only slightly-glorifed tent.

The tent was huge, probably big enough for a hundred people, and it was weirdly festooned in some of the cheapest New Year's regalia you'd ever encounter at the dollar store. Lots of cardboard numerals indicating the year hung from strings, a needlessly plastic ice sculpture, folding tables with cheap white table cloths, and extremely harsh LED lighting. Oh, and there was champagne. There was a lot of almost decent champagne and, if you dug a little, enough vodka to keep us from paying too much attention to the cheapness of the fixtures after a very short while.

The key feature of the tent, centered around the thirty-foot tentpole, was a huge ring, with twenty-four spokes, one for each time zone. The idea, obviously, was that we would all huddle inside the slice representing the zone which would be experiencing the New Year next, and we'd yell, and kiss, and toast, and be merry for a short time, then do it again in an hour, fifteen degrees further along the circle. Not exactly what I would call "romantic." If I weren't so miserable and lonely, I would almost be glad that Tomas and his scientific brain weren't here to see this. 

Around the sides of the room were cots partitioned off by canvas walls. I presumed these were for people who couldn't hack twenty four hours of revelry, but it slowly dawned on me that the copious amounts of alcohol and the forced romantic nature of the event might tip the ickiness-to-horniness ratio enough to make sharing a cot seem like a good idea. Ew. I made note of two couples who seemed most likely to pursue that line of action: Two trust fund babies from an American university for whom the "mile high club" probably also seemed attractive, and a middle-aged German pair whose affection I may have mis-identifed as lechery, but there was no point in risking it. I avoided both couples all day and night as best I could.

Now, the first really strange thing I noticed was that, outside of a small crew in jumpsuits that were supposed to have sort of looked like tuxedos, obviously the "staff" at this establishment, there were sixteen people including me. It didn't take world-class math skills to recognize that there was either someone else alone or some group had an odd number of members. 

It didn't take long to discover it was the former, and the identity of the other loner wasn't too difficult to figure out. A young dude, tall, rail thin, dark curly beard and thick glasses that were more "old" than "retro." He hunched over slightly, wearing, of all things, a yellow Cleveland Cavaliers basketball tank top under and enormous, furry grey coat. I thought I looked out of place, but this guy was light-years past me in that regard.

We guests all milled around, staking out areas to put our stuff, chatting awkwardly with whoever spoke our language. For a five-digit vacation, it sure felt a lot like a high school dance. Fortunately, one of the perks of being a grown up is that you could spike your own punch up to whatever level of oblivion-inducing goodness your heart desired. One of the staff hit a button to start up a little generic techno and this party was, for better or worse, started.

slightly less conspicuously awkward, we gathered in the slice of the floor circle just this side of the "International Date Line" and counted down to midnight. There was a little thrill in being among the first people on the planet to transition to the new year, a big twang of loneliness at not having anyone to share this with, and then it was back to a bunch of folks with nothing to talk about, talking.

We repeated this dance a couple of times, getting more and more "festive" but at the same time less interested in the event of the new year each time. We'd blow our little paper horns, then step forward into the past, magically an hour earlier, and just mill around. Honestly, the times in between the times were the most interesting. The German man stepped outside to take a piss, which was not recommended by the staff as we had indoor facilities. He somehow managed to communicate with hand gestures and a few cognates that he was terribily disappointed that the stream didin't freeze while he was peeing. It was, after all, summer in Antarctica, at least as summer as it got.

The little pie slices were labelled with the major cities in each time zone. Somehwere between Tokyo and Singapore, I found myself sitting on a little plastic folding chair next to the other solo attendee. I wasn't paying too close attention, but as far as I could tell, he hadn't said anything to anyone all night. He just started a lot, made noises when a new year rolled around, and kept turning his head suddenly, like a bird. Birdman.  That's what I started to think of him as. Oh well, might as well talk to him.

"Do you speak English? My name's Dave. I'm American."

He turned to me, seriously, and said, "Charles. I am Charles."

"Where ya from Charles? Cavs fan?"

There was a short delay before he answered, during which time I noticed his face was...well, it was odd, but I'm not exactly sure how it was odd. Everying was right where it was supposed to be: Nose, eyes, lips, ears, all present and accounted for. Hell of a beard. But it was like the transitions between those parts were half-assed, if that makes any sense. Which I know it doesn't.

"Cavs?" he said, more to himself than me. "Cavaliers. No. Thank you. I have little English, Dave."

Ooookay. The only other single guy here and very, very much not my type. There wasn't enough vodka in the tent to even pretend. I was going to be a wallflower at this shindig.

I opened my mouth to say something and he cocked his head to listen, but I couldn't think of anything, so I excused myself to pretend to go talk to someone else. I don't think he was even watching, but you know how it is.

The endless birth of the year just kept going and going, but by now, the time we got to Nova Scotia, the alcohol had pretty much disabled our volume control. It was starting to sound like a party, at least until they switch the music when another year was looming, and everything got very, very big band sentimental. A pretty girl, Persian if my guess is right but it's just a guess, leaned into the man she was with and cried and cried. She looked happy, but he seemed very upset.

My favorite couple were Canadians from a university in Vancouver. Tomas and I always got along with educators: Tomas, the science teacher, and me, the middle school English guy. These two were right up Tomas' alley. Eddie was a smallish guy with an unfortunate hairline, but he was having a great time. He and Marie, his Quebecois wife, were dancing around the center of the room, laughing about how she'd get hours ahead of him and then he'd suddenly leap towards her, making up six hours in a single bound.

Eddie found time zones very funny. He was a topographer or something, studied shapes and dimensions. He found this whole exercise delightful, and it was contagious. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, even Birdman. He wasn't talking much, and he wasn't drinking, but he was smiling and even doing something that might have passed as dancing wherever he was from.

All parties hit lulls, and this one was no exception. We were well in our cups by the time Las Vegas rolled into the next year. We'd pulled the plastic chairs into a circle. The people who'd worn formal wear had long since discarded their coats, hats, and in the case of the German woman, her shirt, although her taupe bra provided more than ample modesty. Our bodies, the booze, and the always-on heaters had made the tent almost warm, which was welcome and unexpected.

In one of the quiet moments, Eddie folded his fingers together, stared straight ahead and spoke aloud to himself. 

"You know...time. Time as a dimension. Something you move through," and then a long pause.  "What shape is the universe, when you look at it from outside?"

"No such thing!" answered the American student, a little louder than she meant. "The universe is defined as everything. There's no outside, right?"

Eddie smiled a little. "Maybe from one angle, yes. But we are almost certain there are other angles, other vantage points. Starting from an explosion, like one of those big fireworks, everything going out from there. Even if there's nothing outside it, that's a globe."

"Love, you are boring the people. We are not here to work." Marie's, and her marvelous accent, stopped just short of scolding. Birdman, though, appeared very interested. His eyes were closed, but his body language was tense. Not drunk.

I jumped in. "Go on. This is fun, and besides, we're so drunk, you could just be talking gibberish and we'd never notice the difference." It beat listening to the speakers blare whatever dance song they were playing for the umteenth time and, besides, Tomas might be interested.

"Heh..thank you. Marie, I will try to keep it interesting." Eddie was having fun. "Here's the thing: I can stand in the center of this room, the puckered belly-button of this planet, and I can jump through time."

The Persian man spoke enough English to call bullshit. "No, I do not think you can. This is just a trick of the arbitrary lines of hours, is it not?"

Eddie thought for a moment before responding. "Well, it is and it isn't. It's not objectively true that we move through time this way, not in any sense you'd measure with the speed of light or anything."

He stood up now, looking up and to the left, on a roll. "But we subjectively measure time based on how we move through it. It is absolutely a true statement that I can take one step and move twelve hours on this planet and it is not a trick."

"So the fuck what?" The American student, one of them, not sure which. Their voices were remarkably similar despite the difference in genders. They were not really paying much attention anymore. Pretty much no one other than me and Birdman. Marie got up to refresh her drink, which was always champagne, never vodka.

"Well," said Eddie, "Ok, the universe is a globe, or sphere, or whatever, now, time. We don't really know time very well. But suppose time is like the dimension through which the universe spins. Spinning spheres have an axis..."

I'm not sure at what point during Eddie's speculation that Birdman got to his feet because I having to concentrate pretty hard on what Eddie was saying. He didn't move gracefully, but he was quick. Got right up in Eddie's face before the Canadian or his wife could do anything. He held...something...up in Eddie's eyes and, as if reading from a script, said,

"You are very drunk. You have had a foolish idea which would embarrass you if you told anyone about it. Sleep, now, and forget." 

Someone made a crack about "hypnotists!" without really going into detail while Birdman carried Eddie over to a cot and set him down. Birdman scanned the room quickly and saw me coming to help him with Eddie. 

Birdman watched me for a moment, then confided, "I have to leave now. You. You were watching the small man?"

I thought for a moment, and lied with all of my drunken might. "No, just staring off in to the distance. Not really paying attention."

Birdman had one of his weird pauses and then came to a decision. "I think you did watch." He reached for whatever he'd put in Eddie's face...

...and I put my knee into his gut. What the hell was I supposed to do? I kicked him, then brought my fist down on the back of his head, which seemed to put him out. 

This alerted the other guests, who drunkenly, swervingly, wandered over my way. I looked down, feigning disgust, and said loudly enough for them all to hear, 

"She was my sister, asshole."

In retrospect, it wasn't very convincing, but apparently, I didn't have to be. No one seemed to really care, to be honest. Marie rushed back, saw Eddie on the cot, and thanked me for taking care of him, which was sweet if somewhat undeserved.

Everyone else went back to seeing out the last few new years on the clock, more of a chore now than anything. I stayed with Birdman, dragging him up on to a cot. I kept my eyes on it. Which is why I was the only one to see his body move, as if dragged, in a direction I couldn't for the life of me focus on, and I was starting to sober up. 

Funny thing: Birdman wasn't on the guest list. I checked.

So here I am, in the middle of nowhere, who knows when, but I know something. I know something that, to the right person, feels like it could be very, very important. Someone sure thought so.

I bet Tomas would think so too. That thought warmed me a little, but you know what? Fuck Tomas. Marie gave me Eddie's contact info and I think I'd really like to visit Vancouver.


What If The Slippery Slope Is Really Just A Waterslide?

“Well, that’s not something you see every day,” I said, knowing that, these days, it really was.

My co-worker Maria and I were enjoying a chilly autumn walk, talking a shortcut back from the convenience store, when she pointed out a gathering across the street. A dozen or so formally dressed people were gathered around a young woman in a wedding gown, kneeling on a grave. She was smiling broadly and holding back tears. Weddings will do that to you. She was, apparently, marrying her deceased mother. The happiest day of her life.

 “You see, I told you that was what was going to happen! You just kept saying ‘slippery slope this’ and ‘slippery slope that’ and, dammit, this is what we get!” 

Maria was upset. She gets that way when she’s right and no one is patting her on the back for it. She was right, but that didn’t stop me from rolling my eyes every time she brought it up.

“When I was on the Council for Real American Marriage in ‘16, we warned you, we warned everyone. This is what you would get if you forced people to recognize ‘non-traditional’ marriages. You and everyone else just laughed and said we were being alarmist, but nooooo….” She drew it out, betraying her early 80’s cultural heritage. “No, you just applauded as the whole thing went down the tubes. If you’d just listened…”

 Her longs strides were faster now, and her intense stare was burning into some unseen point down and in front of her. She was approaching Full-On Rant status. I needed to say something before…

“I swear to God, if I were in charge….” Her voice rose and her right arm pointed skyward.

“Ok Maria, you were right. But, seriously, is this so bad?”

She stopped (rant avoided), and turned slowly to face me (oh shit).

“Yes, Mister ‘Hold Hands and Sing Kum-bay-yah’, it is ‘so bad.’

“I know we’ve been over this, but why?” She gave the look that I’ve come to recognize as the “Are you fucking kidding me?” look, a slight shrug to her shoulders and a disappointed frown on her face.

“Because…because, look, quit being obtuse. What possible point can there be to marrying a dead person, or a dog, or a tree? Marriage exists for a reason, for many reasons, and none of them are served by a woman marrying a dead person. Even if you don’t believe in God (and how she managed such an admonishing tone in so few words, I’ll never know), you can’t believe that this is ‘marriage.’

“I don’t know why you’re so upset,” I said, knowing full well why she was so upset. She was upset because, in the wake of Cheval v. Gespenst, the Supreme Court had decided in favor of the defendant and the marriage was upheld. This case was seen as the tipping point in the establishment of the “We give up, so long as you’re not hurting anyone, go for it” doctrine.  Maria took the defeat personally and never missed an opportunity to let everyone know the future had vindicated her beliefs. The war was lost, but the battles were never-ending.

“Personally, I think it’s kind of sweet. I mean, she’s happy, and I doubt her mother cares greatly one way or the other.”

Maria was undeterred. “Of course you would say that. You’ve never been married. You don’t know what it’s like to see other people deface the institution you’ve invested your whole being into upholding.”

“That’s not fair,” I responded, not entirely sure that it wasn’t. “Just because I’ve never been married doesn’t mean that the Court’s decision didn’t affect me.” That was the truth, by the way. Cheval v. Gespenst and the new doctrine were applied in some truly novel and unexpected ways.  “My boss is a unicorn when he’s at work. My own sister has decided to identify as an effete English hero when she’s travelling. Most of my friends and family have been affected in at least some way.”

“Your sister? Really? Wow.” Maria paused briefly and her increasingly aggressive stance towards me relaxed slightly.

“Sure. Doesn’t bother me at all, either.  Why should it?”

“Isn’t it weird?”

“No…well, a little. It’s a little weird. But she’s happy. She has fun. We used to play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons when we were kids, so we grew up pretending to be whoever we wanted to be. She told me she realized that being who you ‘are’ is just another kind of pretending and she was tired of being herself all the time.”

“That’s just nuts.”

“Eh, maybe. I dunno. When I think about it, and think about how much of my personality is something I made up, or some affectation I engaged in long enough that I didn’t have to think about it anymore? I can see it. She says she thinks life’s a role-playing game anyway, and you don’t have to play the same character all the time. “

Maria was silent for a short while and made the face of a kid who was trying a spoonful of something new and was rapidly coming to the conclusion that, whatever it was, they did not like it. Then, abruptly, she scowled and pushed me back a couple of steps.

“You don’t have a sister!”

Busted. I couldn’t stop laughing.

“No, no,  hey, stop that,” I struggled to say as she continued to shove me.  “I was just trying to get you to look at it differently. Hey, isn’t your wife going to wonder where you are?”

“Well, you’re a fink and…” she stopped and checked the time on her phone “Oh crap, I’m supposed to be home in twenty minutes. Carla is going to kill me!”

*phew* I’d been saved by the proverbial bell.

“We can take this up tomorrow. Say ‘hi’ to Carla for me.’

I’d been in their wedding and they really do make a lovely couple. 

Note: This story is in response to the Terribleminds.com Flash Fiction Challenge: 

(p.s. This piece of ignorance and hate was part of the research I did for this story. I suffer for you people sometimes.)

Here's the photo: