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Story by Sherrie Flick (Read author interview) December 15, 2008

Art by Robinson Accola

The sun refuses to begin. Franci doesn’t ask why a strip of muslin stretches across their lives these days. She unfolds herself in the dim light, slides into her clothes. Wendel drags his feet from the warm flannel sheets to the cold floor to his boots. He coils his scarf, twists it tight over his mouth.

She’s careful to mark her territory, shoulders square in the cold bucket seat, arms at her sides. Wendel starts the car. Once—twice, he taps the brakes on the descent. Franci sends gray steam toward the windshield.

Now, in the bitter light, Wendel has dropped Franci off on the street where she shops for vegetables. He says, he’ll be back once he’s done. She gathers ingredients for a quiet dinner—the surrender, the truce—she hopes might be their perfect future: fennel, potatoes, kale. Tarragon and parsley.

The gourds on the step are a reminder: time is short.

As thin as a slip, the light has followed her down the street. The butternuts—sexy at the waist—recline.

They remind Franci of a Fall street she knows Wendel barely remembers—there the loose wind curled the leaves. They held hands, walked by the apple trees’ crazy, gnarled branches. She doesn’t remember the tune he sang—just his face, younger, flecked with shadows—and happy.

Franci clutches the gourds, buys as many as she can hold.

About the Author

Sherrie Flick is the author of the novel Reconsidering Happiness and two short story collections, Whiskey, Etc. and Thank Your Lucky Stars. Her stories have been performed for Selected Shorts and appear in Ploughshares, New World Writing, and wigleaf, as well as the anthologies Flash Fiction Forward, New Sudden Fiction, and New Micro. She served as series editor for The Best Small Fictions 2018 with guest editor Aimee Bender and is co-editor for Flash Fiction America, forthcoming from Norton in 2022.

About the Artist

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.

This story appeared in Issue Twenty-Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-Three

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