Welcome to the Spot Writers, bringing you a weekly dose of flash fiction. Today’s prompt involves a bit of fun: Pick up the two books closest to you. For the first book: copy the first 3 words of the book. This is how your story will start. For the second book: copy the last 3 words of the book. This is how your story will end. Fill in the middle. As an added challenge, turn to a random page in each book. Choose the most interesting word on each of those pages. Include those 2 words in your story.
This week’s story comes from Dorothy Colinco. Check out her blog for fiction, books reviews, and book news.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – First three words: It was 7; Bonus word: Wellington
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk – Last three words: road of anthracite; Bonus word: transatlantic
A Road of Anthracite by Dorothy Colinco
It was 7 years after that first meeting that we spoke again. The first time was initiated by me, but chance had its hand in our second meeting.
In the moments when I thought about my good fortune, the bounty of my life, I was sometimes checked by a sudden realization, a miscalculation of the good and the bad, and I’d remember, “Oh yes, I have a brother who has rejected my very existence,” and I would read a doorstop of a novel or paint or review the taxes of the small business whom I worked for until I no longer remembered.
I remember walking along 7th Avenue, perfectly content in this city that was supposedly overdone and stale and gentrified and no longer the center of the universe, though it still was to me. I was headed to the restaurant, the one he suggested after I requested a meeting. I didn’t have to explain who I was. He must have known by my name on social media, but even without that, my picture gave him clues The end of my nose, my hooded eyelids, the fullness of my top lip.
I remember reading the menu posted outside the restaurant, entrees I had never hear of at the time – beef wellington, niçois salad, escargot. I was about to give the hostess my name when I saw him at a small table in the corner of the room. I had never seen him before, but I too had clues: his hairline, the arch of his brows, his cheekbones, so like my own. The resemblance to a face that was forever lost to me hurt.
As I sat down, he looked up, and I thought I saw him startle as he too registered the resemblance before he took on a neutral air.
He reached into his briefcase and took out a checkbook.
“How much do you need?”
“What? I don’t – That’s not what I-” I stared at the pen hovering above the table. “That’s not what I wanted.”
He seemed confused, and then, irritated.
I suppose I wanted to tell him that I was angry at being rejected for no reason, that I was sad about our father passing, that I was again angry that I’d been deprived of someone who had access to memories of him. But at 23, I didn’t know all those things, or at least I didn’t know how to say them out loud.
And so I left. I didn’t want his money. I didn’t even need it. I was doing very well for myself. My modest flat was exactly that, but it was also paid for each month, on time.
I was 30 when we met again. This time, I was not a discarded half-sibling licking the wounds of rejection but an accountant at a law firm who published short stories in little-known magazines in her spare time. I had moved into a different but still modest flat, and my tendency toward everyday simplicity afforded my occasional luxuries, like the transatlantic cruise we had unknowingly both booked; I was with my close friend, and he was with his wife. It was at the piano bar that we found each other. My friend Claire had found a beau on the ship who invited her to dinner, so I sat alone at the bar while listening to Piano Man. In another setting, it may have been too on the nose, but floating on the Atlantic Ocean with strangers whom I’d see for another 7 days, it was pitch perfect.
It was then that the bartender brought over a drink paid for by “the gentleman over there.” I almost waved it away, but I noticed a tilt of the head that was not unfamiliar, the bar lights glinting off cheekbones that were like the ones I brushed highlighting powder on earlier that evening.
I didn’t touch the drink for a while. Condensation was slipping off the glass when I finally picked it up and brought it to my lips. It was bitter, with an underlying current of something sweet and bright, like citrus.
I couldn’t discern what this drink was – an olive branch? A bridge? A door, perhaps, opened after being shut forcibly and for so long.
As I stood and moved toward the seat across him, I decided it was a road, though not an easy or pretty one. It was rough and hard and unforgiving. It was still a road, though it was a road of anthracite.
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com
CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/