A sample from this collection appears below ,along with one of the author's flash-fiction favorites.
The morning the movers were due, Gladys walked through the house with respectful steps, as though otherwise she might disturb its contents. Small chance of that. They were all in the front rooms, packed in boxes labeled with both their origin and destination, sheeted in heavy-grade plastic or under canvas tagged with the contents. Her footsteps clattered on naked floors. Gladys was tall, played tennis twice a week, indoors and out, depending on the weather, golfing almost daily in the summer, and had even run the half marathon a few years earlier, before it became too much for her knees. But today she was dragging, impeded by remembrance. The bare walls showed outlines of where the pictures had hung. The Appel, Miro and Picasso prints were packed away, but their departure was marked by the brighter tone where they had shaded the painted walls from the sunlight that shone through the western windows. Gladys studied her surroundings. The memories remained.
She paused in the dining room. Even with the furniture gone, she saw the table where their children had coughed up their formula as infants, spit out the vegetables as toddlers, and shoveled down full meals in less time than it took Harry and Gladys to eat their salad when their teenaged sons were in a hurry to go wherever teenagers go to get on with growing up. The table where Harry and Gladys had dined alone the last two years. The furniture would reappear in the condo, but in the new surroundings she would live in a diorama of what she once had.
"They should be here in half an hour."
That was Harry, her husband of 40 years, but maintaining the tone of a teen disappointed by reality. If it had been up to Harry, they would have kept the house, saved a carpet that needed vacuuming every other day, held onto three flights of stairs, heaving shopping carts, packages and all the other paraphernalia up the bumpy steps. She wouldn't miss the bumps. Harry had all his hair, a pension, and a lifetime of working at a desk in his office downtown instead of cleaning, cooking, shopping, carpooling, arranging play dates, hosting birthday and holiday parties, entertaining Harry's clients as well as their friends, clubbing, and all the other pleasures of wifedom and motherhood. No wonder Harry had resisted. #
The Loop, Chicago, Illinois
Blades reached her just as the light at State and Washington turned green. He took her elbow, stopping her under the Macy’s clock that overhung the street, demonstrating that time hangs heavy as well as ticking short. Spring already. Blades’s shirt was plastered to his back under a tweed sports coat wrong for the weather, but that would probably be right for the season when the wind changed and blew in from the lake. There were no birds chirping over the Loop. Just pigeons depositing their opinions. No flowers in the air. Just the smell of fast-food joints and the odor of his armpits. No music, just his heart, crushing through his shirt. He counted to five before trying to talk. Twenty years earlier, he would have lost his breath at her beauty—blonde hair tumbling down, teasing her blouse, and a walk that wavered between the promise and danger of sex. These days, he was short of breath just from his job. No need for the added excitement of trailing a target. Even one who looked like her. Served him right for playing the ponies and needing to watch his shekels.
“I have some questions since we spoke,” he said.
“I’d like to buy back the introduction.”
They were walking again, purse hanging from her shoulder, banging her hip. Blades panted with every step. She abandoned him when he leaned against a building across the street. Served him right for not affording a cab. Learning her destination without the distraction of his sweat and shortness of breath would have let him take the offensive. Now, assuming he managed to spot her and catch up to her ahead, what he could do about it was the obvious question.
Once breathing as easy as he could these days, Blades resumed in her direction. She might have stopped at some window long enough for him to find her. If she entered a store, he would never know which one. But that was unlikely. She was the kind of woman who didn’t buy for herself. She was bought and paid for by his client. At $150 a day, Blades himself was for sale.
After another block, Blades got lucky. It had been a long time, but he hadn’t forgotten the smell of success at the hunt. She was looking at a display of diamonds, all too big for his wallet.
“Please don’t run again,” he managed to say. “I’m getting too old.”
“Getting?” She apprised him. “You were ‘got’ some time ago.”
He ignored the repartee. He had already told his client about her rendezvous the night before, at the Hilton. In the old days, he would have slipped the desk clerk cash for a key, entered their room with camera in hand, and caught them in the act. Eased his client out of the marriage without paying her a nickel. These days, he had no evidence. Just his testimony. Maybe he could trick her into admitting it on tape. He patted the recorder in his left hip pocket.
“Last night I saw where, when, and with who,” he said.
“With whom,” she said. She remained fixated on the gems, speaking in a tone indicating that he didn’t matter, but that she would humor him.
“Let’s talk about it.”
“Let’s,” she said. “But in private – the alley.”
Now she was looking at him, appearing to size him up. What he wanted. If she took him seriously, she might sign the settlement agreement he had in his pocket without demanding any payment. Then he could keep the cash for himself. She nodded at the gangway between their building and the next. Agreeing on solitude and a quieter setting, he followed her there.
After just a few steps, Blades was panting again. Halfway in, she stopped. He managed to say: “Your husband is willing to make a deal, if you agree to it right now, without involving any lawyers. I’m glad I caught up to you.”
“You didn’t catch up to me, I fell back to you. If I had to, I would’ve walked backward to get rid of a witness. This is Chicago. The cops will just assume it’s another killing in the streets. Unusual for downtown, but still . . .” She had a pistol in her hand. Too small for more than a round, but it would do the job, and the street noise would muffle the sound. Breathing easy for a change, Blades closed his eyes and waited. #
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