Winner of Thunderdome Flash Fiction Contest 2018: Day 2. View the video prompt here.
F minus three hours and forty-two minutes. Berthe shifts around in the wicker chair next to mine. The dust on our porch alights into the expectant air as she slides her bare feet over the
“What are you reading?” I ask, looking not at her, but at the dripping honeysuckle moon.
“Gone with the Wind,” she replies brusquely, annoyed that she has had to snatch her cigarette out of her mouth.
I turn. The cherry at the end of her Parliament is as pink and smoldering as the moon tonight.
F minus twenty seconds. The damp hug of the sheets wakes me up, so I slither onto Berthe’s cool and untouched side of the bed. The clock calmly warns of impending sunrise. I can
see pale yellow light splashing up the stairwell, and I open my ears wide to the crowded silence
of the house.
I hear some clanging before the screen door suddenly opens and slams shut. Berthe is speaking, and then she is shouting. Her interlocutor stops whispering, growls hotly, then finally bellows with moaning vehemence while she leaves them behind and comes to me upstairs, unsurprised to find me awake. An alarm screams as we rush past our uninvited guest, who flicks and flails limbs that promise the warmest embrace.
F plus thirteen months. It’s my last day in New York. Her only relations have done their best to somberly console me: lung cancer was always lurking, they said. They took most of her personal hospital effects, save for her final book now on my hotel dresser. I walk outside and I’m cold again (looking forward to Australia), flowing along with this totem gripped tightly. There’s a bookstore on this corner and I set the thing, heavy with secret memories, on one of the carts outside.