Flash Fiction . . .
The Four Kings of Harmony
by Timothy Gager
You sit in your room and listen to the Mills Brothers. You are 16.
The Mills Brothers.
It is 2019.
The day is long.
Your boyfriend broke up with you.
The President is not a person.
There are a bunch of 45's in your room. You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You with Ev’ry Second Of on the B-side. On the Dean Martin version, the flip side has You’ll Always Be the One I Love, which feels manipulative as all hell. That’s why you play the Mills Brothers again and again.
So they sent you away—your parents are Republicans. The nurse in charge is about one-hundred-years-old. She has a phlegmy voice and she doesn’t follow the cue of you clearing your throat. She tells you, you can’t blame your parents, until you tell her you are 16.
“Blame the parents then,” she gargles, “Ah, the Mills Brothers. Those were the days,” and sends you to the art room where you make paper dolls with flirty-flirty eyes.
When your parents visit they don’t ask about you using scissors, they ask, “How are you doing?”
You think it’s a trick question, so you don’t say, “Hey, hey, twee, twee, twee, twah, twah,” even though that’s the correct answer. You stay for seven more days.
When time’s up, the old nurse meets with you and your parents, and you talk about hurting the ones you love. In fact, you begin to sing it, because there are four of you in the room and they should know their parts. But it is only you who knows things.
The nurse says since no one is singing that it is time for your parents to listen to Put Another Chair at the Table, and she plays the song on her iphone. It’s not a 45. You agree. You walk down the hall with your parents.
An Interesting Face
by Clive Aaron Gill
At the San Diego airport, a flight attendant escorted me with a soft touch on my arm to an aisle seat in the front row of the airplane where there was more legroom than the other rows.
“Here’s your seat, sir,” she said. “On your right.”
Since the age of thirty, my eyesight had deteriorated. On that day, at forty, I could only tell the difference between light and darkness.
I heard people shuffle into the cabin and stow their baggage in the overhead compartments. A woman, in a soothing voice, tried to pacify a crying baby.
Two women spoke to each other before sitting in my row. I enjoyed listening to the theatrical voice of the woman who sat beside me. She sounded a little older than me. Her perfume reminded me of the time, as a boy, I had visited a park in Los Angeles and smelled the strong, sweet aroma of blooming lilacs.
After we were airborne and heading to San Francisco, a flight attendant served me orange juice. I sipped the artificial-tasting drink and chewed on the ice cubes.
The two women in my row talked about their choice of actors for a play and the costumes needed.
I enjoyed the smooth flight, and when the captain announced the aircraft’s descent, I turned to the woman beside me. “Are you on vacation?”
“Yes. My mother and I are visiting my brother in Berkeley. He’s a physician.”
I wondered if she noticed my sporadic facial twitch. “How long has it been since you’ve seen him?”
“Six months. How about you? Are you on business or vacation?”
“Vacation,” I said. “I’m visiting my son. He lives in the Potrero District in San Francisco. Tomorrow we plan to hike in the forests around Monterey.”
“It’s good you’ll be there in September.” Her voice had the sparkle of a mountain stream. “Most of the tourists have gone and the roads are not too busy. I love the smell of the ocean and the redwood trees.”
“The scenery is gorgeous,” I said, recalling times when I could see. “On a clear day, you have spectacular views of the ocean from the high cliffs.”
“I couldn’t help overhearing you discussing actors.”
“I’m so excited,” she said. “We’re going to produce a revival of Betrayal by Harold Pinter.”
“Isn’t that about a love affair based on one of his relationships?” I wondered if she had a lover.
“Yup. It’s his most frequently performed work.”
The flight attendant asked for trash. I handed her my plastic cup and a paper napkin.
“What’s your occupation?” my companion asked.
“I’m a massage therapist.”
“I love massages.”
“Most of my clients are repeat customers,” I said. “I feel a person’s spirit.”
“Your clients are fortunate.”
I imagined her face to be as smooth as velvet, round and delicate. I wanted to know what she really looked like. I took a chance and said, “You have an interesting face.”
She laughed, her voice reminding me of mellow wind chimes. “It’s nice to be told that. I’m tired of people telling me I have a pretty face.”
“Well, an interesting face can also be pretty.”
“You are a kind man.”
I wondered if she wore her hair in a bun or if it was plaited. Perhaps it hung loosely over her shoulders. Or was it cut short?
I hoped she and I would meet again.
“We'll be landing soon,” I said.
“Yes. Thank goodness it’s a short flight. I can only sit on a plane for two or three hours.”
When she got off the aircraft, would she forget our brief chat? I felt we could go on talking for hours. Our conversation would stay with me for days, maybe months.
The airplane landed with a bump. The noisy thrust reversers forced me forward in my seat, and the cabin shuddered. When the aircraft stopped, I heard passengers get up and collect their luggage.
The woman beside me unbuckled her seat belt. “Goodbye, sir.”
“Goodbye,” I said. “Nice talking with you.”
I wanted to shake her hand but hesitated before extending my arm with my hand open. She did not grasp it. Perhaps she had turned to leave with her mother. I almost smacked my head for my indecision.
She and all the other passengers left the plane. I inhaled the lingering scent of her perfume, and I replayed our conversation in my mind.
A flight attendant arrived to help me. “You had an attractive traveling companion,” she said.
“Really?” I asked. “Was her hair long or short?”
“Long. She had blue-black hair in braids. It reminded me of thick rope.”
“Blue-black, you said?”
“I did. And vacant, hazel eyes.”
“Yes. Didn’t she tell you she was blind?”
Born in Zimbabwe, Clive Aaron Gill has lived and worked in Southern Africa, North America, and Europe. He received a degree in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, and lives in San Diego. More of Clive's stories are available at amazon.com/Clive-Aaron-Gill/e/B00FADQIR6.
Timothy Gager is the author of 15 books of fiction and poetry and has had over 600 works of fiction and poetry published. He is the fiction editor of The Wilderness House Literary Review. He lives in Dedham, Massachusetts, with some fish and two rabbits.
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