I'm at Edenfred again today. Lovely cool rainy day to be inside writing.
A flash fiction piece I wrote this last week. When I spoke to my friend Owen about it, I told him about how before writing this I was feeling very resistant, very sort of "why should I write, I have nothing to write about, I'm not going to write right now," etc. And then the first line came into my head, as is often the case with flash fiction, and out this came, basically as is.
Still needs revision, but here it is for your perusal!
I am still waiting to hear back from flashfiction.com to see if they are publishing some of mine.
As for the novel, which is the drive of most of today, I am completely revising the beginning, adding new, young characters, to show the story more for me. You'll be happy to know I START with dialog! That's how committed I am to change...
A Flash Fiction by Miriam Hall
She waits, the last customer at the neighborhood sushi joint, in the far corner chair, where she can see all walls both outside the window and those closing her in. Anyone walking by would say she could just as easily be an employee and someone finishing their food – her glance, unnoticing, set at a point far off from Ashland Avenue, goes unmet, and her focus undefined.
She is, in fact, a customer, or would have been more of one if he hadn’t stood her up.
“In the age of cell phones there’s no excuse for this kind of thing,” the waitress offers indirect and unasked-for commiseration to the waiting woman, who does not, mercifully, even hear her. She does not see the $1.52 check for her Sprite in a red plastic Coca-cola cup, nor does she notice that everyone else has left; only that he never arrived.
Once a week, the employees take turns sweeping up at the end of the night. This means they only have to stay late one night out of seven, and as they almost all have children, they can go home a bit early the other nights. The blond, 40-ish woman who’s been there all dinner hour and well into the end of the drinking crowd has gone virtually unnoticed by anyone but her waitress. Never has she gone to the bathroom or stray from her station, gripping her cell phone as if to strangle it in her right hand, her forehead half against the glass and left hand wrapped around her waist, as if cradling or holding herself.
So the last employee, a young man of South American descent, doesn’t even notice her until everyone else has left. He figures she must be asleep, and as they don’t use a vacuum cleaner or anything loud while wiping things down, he figures he’ll let her rest. She does not even flicker when he shuts off the neon sign declaring them “OPEN” (it had lost the N last week, leading locals to joke the their country yokel friends that “OPE” was Japanese for “OPEN”).
The young man takes his time, both so he can clock out on the full hour and to respect the sadness she’d feel on waking only to find her date never showed. For that must be her story. That she got stood up. He wonders about her story – had gotten a small snippet or two from her waitress as she clocked out. In fact, he becomes so attached to her, in a way, and the little stories he’s made up for her – that she’s a widow who will never find love again, or 40 and still single, that as he sweeps closer to her he dreads waking her, wonders if he could just leave her there. But then he realizes she will panic if she wakes truly alone in the restaurant, especially if he locks her in.
He studies her in what remains of the street lights – like that Hopper painting he saw at the Art Institute last year, of the two folks in the café, sitting side by side, staring out the window, totally alone. Lonely, without even trying, by default.
He becomes a bit resentful. “Why do I have to be the one to wake the lady?” The clock ticks closer to the hour and he realizes he will have to wake her, he has to clock out on time or they will wonder what kind of shenanigans he was up to.
“She must be deaf,” he thinks, as he sprays her table with ammonia, “how can she not have heard me by now?” Then he really begins to worry, “what if she is DEAD?” Her eyes don’t even appear to do the kind of fluttering blinks closed and dreaming eyes do. He takes his rag with ammonia and sets it under her nose, thinking the fumes would be the test. A bit like smelling salts.
She opens her eyes slowly and he sees her blue irises squeeze and contract with new light, though the place is the dimmest its been all night.
She did not look confused.
“Finally, you came,” she smiles and reaches over to pull his head to hers.
“I waited for you all night,” she sighs, without a hint of complaint, as if she were saying it was sunny outside today. Which it had been.
She kissed him on the lips.