Wendy’s Call [Flash Fiction]

Another call, another disappointment. Wendy put down the portable phone with the numbers that were all rubbed off from the rubber buttons and sighed. She was sixty-seven, almost, and it was time for a kitten. It wasn’t proving easy to find. A young voice had just informed her that the two males she’d been interested in had already been snatched up by someone else, someone with two daughters who wanted them to each have her own cat. They don’t work that way, cats, Wendy knew, but she didn’t try to explain this to the girl on the phone. She tried to hide her disappointment. She tried to tell herself it was going to be alright.

Doctor Kendall was a nice man. He’d been looking. He would keep looking. He knows I’ll take good care of a kitten, Wendy thought.

She got up from the kitchen table, where she’d been drinking a cup of tea. Her dressing gown was tied tightly around her waist, broader now than her hips. Her whole family was like that, holding weight around their middles, like barrels of rainwater. Her feet were bare on the brown carpeting, and she wriggled her toes in it for a moment. The cleaning gentleman had been over that morning, and the carpet was fluffed from the vacuuming, and it felt soft and wooly. The way she always imagined it would feel to stand in a cloud, even though she knew, of course, that standing in a cloud would mean falling right through it and getting soaked to boot. It was moments like these that made Wendy feel silly about being sixty-seven, almost.

Her eyes, handsome gray and the only vanity she still had, would have to be made up. It was time to go out. She did the dishes first, only the tea-cup and saucer and a small plate where she’d been nibbling some melon rinds, and thought about the rest of her day. She worried about not being home. What if she got another call about the kittens? She needed to give Doctor Kendall her cellphone number. She had one, though she rarely used it, but this was important.

The too-wide bed was where she spread out her clothes. A pair of sensible black pants. A bra, which was important, because she sometimes left the house without one and got stared at. She wanted to tell people that she’d been a flower-child and that bras were for conformists, but she really wasn’t up to long arguments, so she just wore bras when she went outside of her neighborhood. Around where she lived, people knew her. They knew she wasn’t as old as life had made her look.

Over her aching back and shoulders she pulled a light sweater, a big one, that had belonged to a long-ago man who had been bigger than her. A lot bigger, back then, but now the sleeves were long and the middle fit just right, hugging her tummy like maternity clothes.

She brushed her hair with her fingers. She didn’t look in the mirror. Why look, Wendy reasoned, when she was always surprised? Always disappointed? So she’d stopped.

Lifting the portable phone up she replaced it in its cradle, so it could charge. She checked her handbag for her keys, her wallet, her tissues, her Tums, her Advil, her lipstick – not that she often used it, but just in case – and her cellphone, which she had remembered, for once, to charge the night before. It was all there.

Wendy locked the door behind her and took the elevator down. She resisted the urge to go back up when she heard a ringing from one of the apartments. It wouldn’t be hers, she knew. She couldn’t hear her phone from outside anymore.

With Eyes Shut

I sit in front of my computer. My screen is showing the “Add New Post” page on my Worpress blog. I have nothing to say. I sit, and I stare, and my fingers ache from keeping the awkward position of just hovering above the keyboard. My mind feels blank.

And yet, I stop thinking for a moment. I stop trying to plan what I want to say. I realize that as I’ve been sitting here, I’ve been feeling a whole range of things quite outside the blank page on my screen and my thoughts on how to fill it. I shut my eyes.

I take a deep breath. My mother is cooking in the kitchen. She’s making a breaded chicken dish, and it smells wonderful. In fact, it smells so strongly that I know the people in the apartments below us can smell it too. I’m sure that they, like me, are salivating, feeling a sudden urge to eat something fried.

I let my breath out, and concentrate on my hearing. I can hear the sound of the sizzling chicken in the pan, and for a moment my sense of smell takes over again. I shift my concentration back to my ears, those oddly shaped things sticking to the sides of my head, and listen. I can hear my mother talking to the cats. I can hear Massive Attack playing on the stereo. Odd music, but beautiful. Part of the sounds of home in a way.

I think of my mouth, my sense of taste, and I realize that the smell in my nostrils is so dominant that I can almost taste the food already. I let it go, knowing that soon enough I will be tasting it in truth.

Finally, I think of my fingers, and the way they feel gliding blindly along the keyboard. They’re on familiar territory, and I feel that they’re hardly in my control because they manage to move so fast, darting from one key to the next and making another sound for my ears to hear – the tick-tack-click-clack of the keys being pushed down hard, each one only for a moment before my fingers jump over to the next key. If I’d look down and see how fast they were moving, or how oddly they looked, I would probably lose my focus entirely and they’d tangle up and make mistakes. Best to let my fingers alone and let them do as they will.

I open my eyes. I see the end result, the thing I was striving for – a full page.