by gary cadwallader
2003 Storycove Flash Fiction Award
lilies were her favorite. I would bring them rolled in newspapers
while she waited in our beach house, painting green seascapes on
the porch, and pink still lifes inside. She worked by lamplight
with a watercolor brush and a magnifying glass, and I would catch
her looking at me with one big eye and one small, and a tiny grin.
I laughed until she put down the glass and blew a kiss.
fingers were short and strong with stubby nails. Her bare toes were
shaped like hammers.
read Henry Miller aloud while she bathed, showing me ballerina legs
and then, half drowned in rum, we would search for God in each other's
she whispered into my hair, "Anais Nin is better." And
we pushed our bed into a closet making our own cave which we decorated
with lurid, flickering shadows when we made love and light would
sparkle off her long blonde hair.
tried, sometimes, to recreate the same shadows on the wall, but
they always changed. The water in the vase eventually soured. The
flowers wilted. I would watch her move knowing I'd never see her
exactly that way again.
bought Stargazers on Tuesdays and Fridays. The vendor knew my name
and had them rolled in newspaper, waiting for me. Always the same.
the sea brought new things to the beach, a shell I'd never seen,
a stick shaped like a bow.
time came when her paintings sold and she visited galleries far
away. I missed her then, and was more passionate at her homecoming
and our shadows more active, aggressive, vigorous. The lilies seemed
brighter, their pink and white blossoms more beautiful.
was offered a teaching position. "Will you come with me?"
she asked knowing I would shake my head and look away. She wrapped
her arms around me and we swayed in silence. She kissed my chin,
my forehead, my shoulder, my hand.
put my fingers through her hair.
"Someone has to mind the sea."
nodded and was still. We smelled like Stargazer lilies and paperback
books. I moved the bed out, but it seemed small, and the sheets
were so polite that summer.
saw her later in Chicago. She called me Robert and I looked twice
before I saw the face I knew. We were both wearing suits and shiny
were good days," she said.
touched her short blonde hair.
"Anais Nin was better," I said.
looked away. She cleared her throat. "There was nothing we
could do," she said.
know. But I miss our little cave."
She grinned, the bathtub ballerina once again. It gave me a chill.
Then I saw her kids and thought my own were prettier. They ran to
her and each one pulled an arm.
I hugged her.
She smelled like new wool clothes and Chanel perfume.
I went into the restroom and scrubbed my face and hands.