Emerald Bolts Vera Constantineau A Magazine for Flash Fiction

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My house sits in the shade of an apartment building with balconies and patios presented like theatre stages.
   Iris, who lives in the lower right apartment, just walked out on her patio with a joint. The pungent smoke floats on the soft evening breeze to where I'm sitting, my book ignored on my lap.  She's been in the building for three years now. The way she earns a living, the pot no longer surprises me. She sees me and heads over.
   Iris is very short, almost as round as she is tall.  Her hair cropped close, switches from red to black to some odd shade of purple. From my patio I can see her standing at her computer, telephone in hand, as she sways back and forth like she's rocking a baby, that telephone always pressed close. Another odd thing, Iris wears a negligee over her clothes night and day. She has a whole wardrobe of them, pink, white, turquoise. 
   We've become chatting-friendly over the years. First time I saw her it was early spring and I was planting petunias in the flower boxes. Iris watched me for a while, and then said her granny always had big beds of petunias in her yard. Said she hated them. 
   One evening a couple of months later she came over to sit with me under the oak tree.  She smoked a little and told me why she hated petunias. Said there were always parties at Granny's.  Her mother, aunts and uncles knocked back the booze most every Saturday night.  One time her cousins, those nasty bastards, had thrown her into the petunia bed at her granny's.  She was six.  They ripped her panties. Their dirty fingers poked at her, into her. Because they were bigger and stronger they held her down for a long time.  She got smart after that night. She always found a quiet corner in the house and stayed put.  They never dared to come at her under the noses of their parents.  Still, a whiff of petunia and she was back to six years old and powerless. 
   It killed me to hear that. It's my guess her cousins wouldn't be able to budge her now which I suppose proves we tend to protect ourselves any way we can.  Next day I dug out the petunias and put in marigolds.  Petunias didn't give me the pleasure they had.  Iris brought over a bottle of Crown Royal that night. We ordered pizza, and ate and drank then the ringing of her telephone drew her back to her place.
   Now I watch her walk to the low wall. She smiles and says in her soft sexy voice.  "Those crazy buggers really want it tonight. Bread and butter man, bread and butter."
   "We've all got our vices, Iris."
   She laughs and waves the joint at me. "True enough." The phone rings again and Iris disappears through the patio doors. 
   I pick up my book and head inside. Show's over.

Annnnn Eurism

We're in the kitchen at his place. He's on one side of the island cutting fruits into bite-sized pieces for a salad, I'm on the other chopping a knot of fresh chives. The eggs are whisked and waiting.

   I roll to the side of the bed and breathe ...

   I'm wearing thin cotton pajamas. My feet are warm in pink terry slippers. He's barefoot, wearing boxers and a soft tee shirt.

   I press my thighs together and roll into a ball, I hope the darkness holds no surprises – I am over surprises. 

   He smiles at me and says, you are grinning like a Cheshire cat and I say, I'm happy. I turn to the stove for a minute, no a second and I hear the hard thud. My head jerks around and he's on the floor. My heart pounding, I rush to him, I put my hand on his face, his beloved face the face I want to see repeated in short order in all the children we plan to have and the pulse in his neck has paused. I pull back my hand and reach for the telephone but I know – I know in my gut that it is of no use, no ambulance, no paramedic, drip – saline – IV will change this...
   He's dead.

   I can't smile. Not for six months now.
   I have parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, two beautiful nieces and their father.
   My brother, the guy with all the answers, comes to see me every weekend since that day, and before he leaves asks why I am so bummed – says we're all buying it someday.
   Shouldn't the huge gaping hole in my centre be obvious to someone who says he loves me? My entire life is packed in a pine box buried six feet under new grass.
   "What?" I say to him. "Should I celebrate?"
   My brother shakes his head. He doesn't understand the finality of that thud – the pine box – the new grass.   
   Ann-Annn-eurism eurism eurism.
   Annnn Euuurism.
   Not another woman, but as hated. Annn-eurism is a bitch who takes away your future.
   I want to pick up a knife and drive it as hard – straight – as lethally as I can at the thing that hurts the most – the empty space in my chest that used to house so much.
   How do I go on?
   I wondered this at the beginning, but now I know – I fake it.  I walk, talk and smile as if this is just an ordinary day – I've gone silent; mastered stealth mode screaming.
   I eat and try to sleep, when I can't I'll rise up from the bed where he held me, walk to the window where we looked at sunrises together and hate it all.
   Such a repellent emotion – hate. I hate that we are no more – hate that I cannot die today.

- Vera Constantineau (Canada)

Vera Constantineau lives in Copper Cliff, Ontario. Her work has appeared in the anthologies Whispered Words and Manitoulin Morsels, in the e-zines Terra North/Nord and WoW, and in the short story anthology titled Outcrops (Scrivener Press, 2005). Vera has contributed to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio programs Out Front, First Person Singular and Points North's, Northern Writers Series.

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 Copyright © Emerald Bolts Magazine, 2012
The front page image is copyright © by Anthony Kitterick, 2012