If she’d not left her dog and her husband at home, to sit in an airport with a bag that holds other bags—of Cheerios, of pills, of makeup, and the brown onion-skin-coated bookstore bag, thin, holding the just-as-thin volume she read before the flight—she would not have had the thought. If she’d read, instead, the books she brought or watched the airport version of the news that had no accidents in it, she would not have had the thought that she could leave a life behind and start a new one, and so would have been on the return flight home just days later. Perhaps with presents.
But a book, a line from a book, a stranger’s look, a shatter of glass behind her in the waiting area, a hissed “you can’t tell me what to do,” a bathroom attendant singing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” to the tiled walls, a blonde woman in a far corner letting a man take out her right breast from its knit halter to kiss it goodbye, long and hard, while other people pretend not to look, changes everything. She needs coffee. The coffee, the forbidden Krispy Kreme, the honey flakes that drop on the book, on the line that reveals the image that causes the thought, “I don’t have to be invisible,” means that today is not the start of a round trip, the way she thought when she left the dog and her husband at home. She will miss that dog.
Copyright © 2000 Beverly Carol Lucey (from issue 2, July 2000)
Her most recent publications:
Twisted Tales: Flash Fiction (UK) 2012 Scraps (UK) 2013
Anthology: Friend. Follow. Text. #storiesFromLivingOnline (2013)
Winner of Fiction Contest for Estonian Public Broadcasting (2013)
Anthology: Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers (2014)
Anthology: Landmarks: Flash Fiction UK (2015)
Anthology: A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed: National Flash-Fiction Day (2016)
“The Signs Are Everywhere” in humanist.com June 2016 (essay, non-fiction)
Extensive fiction presence online include ezines: Zoetrope All Story Extra, Vestal Review, Flashquake, Smokelong Quarterly, Bound Off, LitPot
Why I chose this story:
In 256 words, Lucey dances neatly around the protagonist’s married life—and it’s the shape of what isn’t said, like blankets left in the shape of an absent body on a bed, that tells the reader what she needs to know. The prose is dense and evocative; I love the juxtaposition of ordinary images (the bathroom attendant, the “forbidden” Krispy Kreme), those random-seeming yet loaded details, against the implied passion of the blonde woman and her man kissing her breast “long and hard” while others look away. She succinctly suggests the boredom she’s dealt with, the passion she lacks, and her new view of her life, all without addressing the issues directly—or even explaining how the mysterious line in the unnamed slim book pushed her to this life-flipping act—yet tosses in that one thought-as-declaration, “I don’t have to be invisible,” like a small bomb.
And I love the last line. It would be mean and dismissive, I think, if the rest of the story wasn’t so subtle, so quietly exuberant. Coming as it does, it made me chuckle.
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