Flash Fiction: Life Is Short

I wrote this story today after looking around the room and picking three things: a tile-topped mission oak table, a red dog leash, and the color green. I’m not sure if it works but I was fascinated with how this story emerged simply from those three prompts.

Life Is Short

Marcy grabbed the red dog leash from the tile-topped mission oak table and called out to her fifteen-year-old dachshund. “Polly, come on. We’ve got to get to the Green Market before they close. John’s coming for dinner.”

Polly lifted her head from her dog bed, gave Marcy a tired look, then sank deeper into the covers as if to say, “Maybe tomorrow.”

“Come on, girl. Dr. Bernard just gave me that lecture on getting you out for more exercise.”

Polly opened one eye, then closed it again.

“Okay, okay. But tomorrow we’re going on two walks instead of just one!”

Marcy glanced at her watch as she hurried out the front door. 6:20 pm. If she made it to the market in time, then she could make John his favorite dish, pasta with pesto. If not, then they were stuck with eggs and bacon. She’d been busy all day with online editing work and just hadn’t had time to get to the store until now.

She arrived at 6:27 and old Mrs. Antonini gave her one of her “raised eyebrow” looks. Marcy had lived in the neighborhood for five years now and knew that look meant she could come in even if Mrs. Antonini would now be late closing up the store. “I’ll hurry, I promise!” Marcy called as she raced down the pasta aisle.

“Hmm, looks like you’re having company,” Mrs. Antonini said when Marcy returned a minute later, pink-cheeked and breathless.

“My boyfriend. John. You met him a couple of weeks ago when we came in for wine.”

“No easy smiles from that boy. Too serious.”

“Yes, well, he’s a divorce attorney. I think his work has gotten to him.”

“No, dear. It’s not the work. Anger circles his face.”

Marcy sighed as she handed her money to the older woman. “He had a tough upbringing. An alcoholic mom. A dad who was never home.”

“He carries his history like a coffin. Beware of him, child.”

Marcy picked up her small bag of groceries. “He’s really not that bad. Just a little dark at times.”

“No excuses, please. That makes the whole thing worse.”

As Marcy headed back to her apartment, she was furious. How dare Mrs. Antonini talk about John like that! What did she know?

But when Marcy returned and John glared at her, she saw him through the older woman’s eyes. His face was filled with anger and his shoulders slumped as if he was, in fact, carrying that “coffin.”

Once inside, Marcy hurried to the kitchen to prepare dinner while John slid down on the couch and picked up the remote control. Just then, she saw Polly lying on her dog bed, her body strangely still. “John!” she called out. “Come quick. There’s something wrong.”

John ran into the kitchen and knelt next to Marcy, who was now cradling the old dachshund in her arms. “Is she okay?”

“She’s gone,” she said, tears wetting her cheeks.

John wrapped his arms around Marcy and Polly. “Oh, god. I am so sorry.”

Marcy stroked Polly’s head and then turned to John. “Life’s short, you know that, don’t you?”

“Your dog just died. Don’t turn on me.”

“My dog just died. That’s why I’m bringing this up.”

“I know. I know.” He shrugged. “I just don’t know what to do.”

“Get some help.”

“I tried. It didn’t work.”

“Then try again. Find another therapist.”

“It won’t make a difference.”

“But it can.”

“It won’t.”

Marcy took a deep breath. “If you want to stay with me, then you have to promise you’ll keep working on it.”

“Are you kidding me? You’re drawing a hard line in the sand while Polly’s lying there dead?”

“Yes, I am.”

“That’s cold.”

“No, that’s caring.”

“Sounds like an ultimatum to me.”

“You just have to promise you’ll get help.”

“Not gonna happen.”

“Okay, then. Goodbye.”

“You’re kicking me out?”

“I’m kicking you out.”

“I think you’re gonna regret this.”

“Get help, John. I’ll take care of me.”

Mrs. Antonini was just locking up the market when she saw John stomp by, a scowl on his face. She smiled. That sweet girl had gotten smart. Good for her.  

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