Issue January 28, 2014

Literary LEO 2014

Flash fiction — 1st Place

This Could Be Me

by Betsy Bryant

There is a woman in our living room, lying on our brown couch, asleep. But I don’t think it is sleep she is doing, it is something else, like she is casting off a veil of drink behind her closed eyes. She came to us in the night like a wild-eyed doe, bailed out of jail, begging for our assurances that everything would be all right. I had none to give her. I had turned myself into a vast, arid desert.

I said to her, “Look around, kids are everywhere, building graveyards in the sandbox with stones that say RIP. There is a baby babbling in the corner, toys tossed in every corner of the house and yard and rotten food in the refrigerator.”

Her eyes watered like a great, flat ocean and I relented, dissolving my desert boundary and said, “Yes, your oasis is here, rest.” We hugged, spongy breast to spongy breast, my heart blown open like a dropped watermelon, seeds thrown asunder and sweet juice everywhere. This could be me, I thought, homeless, without shelter, everything stolen like a great wind wails and carries everything off in a full furnace of heat, turning all to ash and leaving us unhinged.

I led her into the kitchen where piles of books lay on the table, crumbs, spilled coffee, toy cars stopped in their tracks, and handed her a cup of cool water to ease her scorching throat.

“Drink, I said, drink.” The ice clinked on the sides of the glass like fairy bells, and I turned away and ran.