Issue January 23, 2012

Literary LEO 2012

FLASH FICTION — FIRST

Fear of Darkness

BY LINDA SATTERLEE

“He hit your car.”

He didn’t answer, but continued to look up at the traffic light. The jolt hadn’t been severe, but enough to ensure a noticeable dent in the fender.

Again, dull, definite, a second thud of metal contacting metal.

“He hit your car again,” she said, bewildered. “There’s got to be a dent. Don’t you want to take a look?” Looking over his shoulder into the darkness of a winter’s evening, he shook his head.

“It’s nothing,” he muttered, touching her arm lightly, a gesture that said “stay put.”

Thugs? Murderers? Every imaginable calamity came to mind as she wondered what caused the alarm in his eyes.

As black as the evening, two men in the culprit car finally managed to manipulate themselves away from the diagonal parking space. Now trouble?

Tension eased as the light switched to green. Just so quickly, a feeling of absurdness overcame her. Puzzled, but fascinated, she leaned back in her seat and watched him step on the gas pedal, switch on the radio and glance into the rearview mirror. He followed the other car’s right turn with his eyes. She knew he felt her gaze, but refused to look at her.

The ride home went mostly in silence, except for the sounds the radio put out. For some reason, she couldn’t come up with anything to say. Finally, something was brought up and everything returned to normal. They chatted about the play they had just seen, old songs, old friends and other pleasant topics, as if they were on their first date instead of into the third year of their relationship. The darkness outside cocooned them.

Had he not run his hand across the side of his car later, she might have forgotten all about the incident.