Honorable Mention
Flash Fiction
by Gary Cadwallader



by gary cadwallader
Honorable Mention
2003 Storycove Flash Fiction Award

Stargazer lilies were her favorite. I would bring them rolled in newspapers while she waited in our beach house, painting green seascapes on the porch, and pink still lifes inside. She worked by lamplight with a watercolor brush and a magnifying glass, and I would catch her looking at me with one big eye and one small, and a tiny grin. I laughed until she put down the glass and blew a kiss.

Her fingers were short and strong with stubby nails. Her bare toes were shaped like hammers.

I read Henry Miller aloud while she bathed, showing me ballerina legs and then, half drowned in rum, we would search for God in each other's arms.

"Bob," she whispered into my hair, "Anais Nin is better." And we pushed our bed into a closet making our own cave which we decorated with lurid, flickering shadows when we made love and light would sparkle off her long blonde hair.

We tried, sometimes, to recreate the same shadows on the wall, but they always changed. The water in the vase eventually soured. The flowers wilted. I would watch her move knowing I'd never see her exactly that way again.

I bought Stargazers on Tuesdays and Fridays. The vendor knew my name and had them rolled in newspaper, waiting for me. Always the same.

But the sea brought new things to the beach, a shell I'd never seen, a stick shaped like a bow.

A time came when her paintings sold and she visited galleries far away. I missed her then, and was more passionate at her homecoming and our shadows more active, aggressive, vigorous. The lilies seemed brighter, their pink and white blossoms more beautiful.

She was offered a teaching position. "Will you come with me?" she asked knowing I would shake my head and look away. She wrapped her arms around me and we swayed in silence. She kissed my chin, my forehead, my shoulder, my hand.

I put my fingers through her hair.

"Someone has to mind the sea."

She nodded and was still. We smelled like Stargazer lilies and paperback books. I moved the bed out, but it seemed small, and the sheets didn't match.

We were so polite that summer.

I saw her later in Chicago. She called me Robert and I looked twice before I saw the face I knew. We were both wearing suits and shiny black shoes.

"Those were good days," she said.

I touched her short blonde hair.
"Anais Nin was better," I said.

She looked away. She cleared her throat. "There was nothing we could do," she said.

"I know. But I miss our little cave."
She grinned, the bathtub ballerina once again. It gave me a chill. Then I saw her kids and thought my own were prettier. They ran to her and each one pulled an arm.
I hugged her.
She smelled like new wool clothes and Chanel perfume.
I went into the restroom and scrubbed my face and hands.


::Word Smitten's Annual TenTen Call for Fiction::
::the deadline to enter next year's competition is July 1, 2004::
::submission for reading and registration begins May 31 each year::
::this short story contest awards $1,010.00::


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