A short and sweet flash fiction piece I have posted on Simily! For every view, I get two cents! Yay!
A short and sweet flash fiction piece I have posted on Simily! For every view, I get two cents! Yay!
Every year for Thanksgiving, Ms. Myska loved to give of herself in a way that was wholly singular. However, being a low-key mouse type of person, she sought no fanfare. And because this year, she was without her beloved Queen Annie, her Coton de Toulears, the holiday was threatening to be dreadfully lonely. Ergo, she became prodigious in gifting—gluing little chocolate kisses to her dribbles and drabbles of written thought, and leaving her “sweet love grams” in random places.
Here is the story she decided to duplicate in her own hand this year, leaving copies in coffee shops and bars; neighborhood book exchange boxes and libraries; churches and synagogues; gyms and homeless shelters: “Do not let bitterness build up within you. Let it flow out in your tears, flowing out of you and down and around, becoming lakes and ponds, rivers meeting with the sea and supporting creatures, evaporating and feeding life, becoming rain that quenches fire and thirst, renewing, refreshing, sustaining, gentling.”
The Saturday night before Valentine’s Day, there was a sharp rapping on Ms, Myska’s door. By the time she slipped on both of her face masks, her face shield. her gloves, the visitor had gone. On her doormat was a red foil gift bag with tufts of tissue paper jutting out. She looked in all directions, but there was no one in the hallway of her apartment building. She retrieved the package, stepped back inside, and applied the deadbolt.
She set the package on her hall tree bench. She gently removed the tissue paper to reveal a large box that smelled faintly of something rich and sweet – chocolate. She removed the box from the bag: “St. Basil Gift Box Assorted Specialty Chocolates.” There was a card. All it said was “Tony.”
She had met Tony Lasko, the ice cream man, months ago, when he drove his truck through the neighborhood. After he became sick from the coronavirus, she had not heard from him. And after more virulent strains had entered the population, she was even more reticent to go outside. She doubted she would have met him out anyway.
She took off her disposable gloves and sat on her sofa beside her window, the window where she had first seen the ice cream truck go by. She hugged the chocolates of her motherland to her chest.
It had become ridiculous. Victor, a musca domestica, a common housefly, had gained passage into Ms. Myska’s apartment via the cellophane packaging of a crusty French loaf. The arrival of the groceries, having been scheduled to arrive at 11:00 a.m., had nonetheless caught Ms. Myska unawares for she had fallen asleep.
“Oh!” she said, starting bolt upright, realizing what had happened. Sure enough, the packages were on the threshold. All seemed well enough, however: All seemed in order and the milk and cream were cold.
Still, Victor had found his way in.
For days, he had bragged to Jasmine, the wild leg of a landscaping foundation plant and Ms. Myska’s porch plants – Flaming Katy and Donkey Ear – that he would find a way to observe what was happening inside and get fat from the dog food Ms. Myska put down for her little Coton.
What he hadn’t counted on was Ms. Myska’s sharp senses and reactions. Greedily, he had secreted himself away inside the cellophane for a quick snack of French bread crust while waiting for her to open the door and let him inside.
When Ms. Myska spotted him she shouted out in alarm, her second “Oh!” of the morning. She crushed him dead, instantly, while he darted about. His body was unceremoniously scraped away.
Though Ms. Myska hated this condition under which she would have to accept her bread, she acknowledged her responsibility.
Victor’s children were not far behind in gaining access for they had become concerned. He was a hard father to live with. He had never given them any breaks. Still, that did not mean they wished him dead. And he had meant his hard regimented style for their benefit as they would soon understand.
Like Victor, they all bragged to Jasmine and Donkey and Katie they would do what their father had not managed to do and live long and happy lives with Ms. Myska in their natural state of commensalism, giving birth to baby flies and getting fat.
What they had missed was the early cautionary and leavening influence of a mother who had died young while they were but pupae. “Know your limits” she would have whispered to them in their self contained infancy. “Don’t become too proud, for surely you will know death too soon.”
Victor’s children managed to ride in on packages and groceries, to squeeze in between cracks in the screened porch.
Ms. Myska kept her outside door open during certain hours of the summer to enjoy fresh air, to water and tend to her houseplants, Donkey, a succulent, and Katy, a Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, and it was mainly during these hours that Victor’s children managed to gain access.
Jasmine, the landscape plant on the other side of the porch, stepped in at times and said something. “Chillax” she hissed as she rode the waves of the wind. But they were too busy plotting their way to the grave.
“We all have self destructive tendencies,” Donkey Ear interjected sagely one afternoon from his place on the wrought iron shelf.
What did he know? thought Katy, laughing to herself. But it was so like him to sonorously opine with a wisdom beyond his abbreviated age. She allowed him this indulgence.
They would all die one day. Even Ms. Myska would die, thought Katy. They would all become husks while something inside would be set free.
Katy had heard a priest on tv read a revelatory passage from the text Ms. Myska read every morning: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
Katy often wondered about this. She wondered how there were some people who thought carefully of the nature and future of the earth. She wondered if she would be celebrating along with other plants, humans, and geologic formations called mountains.
She thought the passage a little too hopeful, but she tried to stay open. Maybe there would be a new earth one day. She had to admit humans seemed insanely hopeful sometimes. But Ms. Myska seemed ok. If she wanted to read it in her book and believe it who was she.
My ghost is wearing my red sweater. After papers were signed and locks were changed, I realized I left behind the sweater as well as a French cookbook. Would she try to cook from it? I’m telling you now she will suck. She doesn’t have the finesse that comes only with age. And a lot of cooking.
She is straddling the stadium seat and laughing hard at something my ex is saying. Her hair falls down beneath the hem of the sweater, something I’m sure pleases him. Men pass by and stare at her backside.
She attends a funeral of a family member of my ex’s, someone I knew for over twenty years. We were close. But I was not invited. I text my ex, force my way in. She is there beside him.
“What is she wearing?” I hiss to my sister. She wears a short strapless dress and summer sandals. I have gone full-on Jackie O.
“You are just like Mom,” she says.
I bring a flowering rose bush over to my ex’s Christmas Eve. I feel a little guilty for the grief I may have caused.
My son is there. I say hi.
My ghost takes the bush and doesn’t thank me. She’s wearing my red sweater.
The moon kisses my head through the open sunroof on my way to midnight mass.
I don’t care anymore.
I just had to see my sweater one more time.
Florida Fall Ball was Ms. Myska’s favorite Little League baseball season. Her son used to play in the neighborhood league. He had long since graduated and moved to another city and yet there she was, working the concession stand, having kept a key. Not only that, she tidied the field and toilet, picked up the trash, wiped down the metal bleachers. The city janitor assigned to the park had been shooed away by a smiling Ms. Myska and the young mothers were also summarily dismissed when they tried to insist that she should be sitting outside, enjoying the weather. She merely smiled and turned the oil on for the fries, made the coffee. For all they knew, she kept a cot in there, they said to themselves.
By the end of each season the players and their parents had always developed a strange fondness for the rodent-like woman who scurried from task to task, never speaking much, never making much eye contact. They would have been surprised to know she remembered their concession preferences, knew their faces and voices, knew whether they were confident, shy, slow, smart, funny, knew who their friends were, knew their family members, beloved and otherwise. At Halloween, she gave each of them a candy she knew to be their favorite.
Little did they know that each summer, when they were vacationing, she was scurrying to the store for the secret ingredients to her chili. Making the chili every year made fall her favorite season for baseball. Who could resist a good chili on a cool evening? No one, and certainly no one who had tasted her version, contained as it was in a tiny bag of corn chips, the corn chips serving in lieu of pasta, the small bag a portable meal, ready to eat with a spork.
Nor did they know of her harvest moon night when she turned cartwheels in the field and tilted her head back and sang her full-throated songs. Other mysterious women, bodies worn from giving life and sustaining it, joined her, dancing, singing, drinking wine, running the bases and laughing until they ran up into the night sky and they transformed into other beings entirely, birds and butterflies and delicate moths. At daybreak, they became human again.
The season after Ms. Myska died, a young mother found a chili recipe in the cash box. “Make it with love,” the instructions said, “and you will be blessed.”
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