The Answer - by Beate Sigriddaughter (Flash Fiction 2021)

Beate Sigriddaughter, www.sigriddaughter.net, lives in Silver City, New Mexico (Land of Enchantment), where she was poet laureate from 2017-2019. Her poetry and prose are widely published in literary magazines. Unsolicited Press published her latest poetry collection Emily in 2020. Other collections are forthcoming in 2021 and 2022. She posts other women's work on her blog Writing In A Woman's Voice.


The Answer

by Beate Sigriddaughter

            Her feet dangled from the low stone wall. Len looked like a young Hemingway, but with the full beard of Hemingway's later years. He hugged his left leg which was drawn up on the wall. His right leg dangled like hers.

A pot of geraniums stood between them, salmon-colored and pungent. The wind kept playing with the scent. "Sally planted those," he said. "You might like them for your balcony. She told me to talk to you. You would know why she left. I need to understand. I love her so much. I thought she loved me too. It's not another man, she says. Then why?"

            Once in a while, the wind sent up a spray of mist from the river below. Mary didn't know what to tell him. She felt important and incompetent. Sally was her best friend. Mary had been maid of honor at their wedding less than two years ago. Sally had never complained about Len. Her sudden decision to leave him and move into an efficiency apartment downtown had surprised Mary too, but she hadn't given it much thought. There had been no drama and no apparent pain, at least not on Sally's part. Just a simple decision. Len, meanwhile, seemed to be in great pain. And he was waiting for an answer.

            "I don't know, Len," Mary finally said. "I simply don't know. Maybe you were fencing her in. I really don't know."

            "But she said to ask you," he insisted.

            Mary scrunched her forehead. She thought of her own yearning for freedom, for independence, for making her own way in the world. She wanted to put salve on Len's obvious wound, but she didn't have any.

            "I really don't know what to tell you," she finally admitted. "I just don't."

            Len let go of his drawn-up leg and looked down into the frothing water. They sat side by side for a long time on either side of the pot of geraniums, not speaking, guarding each other's silence, honoring each other's presence and confusion. She felt closer to him than she had ever felt before. She wanted to protect him.

            When night fell, and hunger started asserting itself, and they became aware of the bicycles and dog walkers and yells of children on the path behind them, they finally stood and hugged and went their separate ways.

            "I wish I could have helped," she said.

            "You did. You were here."

            Thirty years later he still looked like Hemingway when they met by chance at an airport, both on their hectic way to somewhere else. This prompted Mary to ask Sally when they saw each other again: "What did you mean by telling him to ask me to explain why you left him?"

            "I don't remember," Sally said. "I probably just said that. To get him off my back. He was so sad."

1 comment :

  1. Interesting story. I suppose there was a deeper meaning to Sally's remark...perhaps something she did not want to explain.

    ReplyDelete

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