HONORABLE
MENTION
GeminiMAGAZINE
2012
Flash Fiction
Contest
Ronald parked next to the solitary car in
the unplowed lot and his wife grumbled as she
stepped from the passenger seat into the deep
snow. He reminded her once more that buying
tickets meant that he would use them, blizzard
or no blizzard, travel advisory or no travel
advisory.

The desolate lobby, gilded and red, felt
haunted. A teenage boy in a frumpy vest took
their tickets, handed them programs, and
pointed to a left entrance. Ronald barely
acknowledged him.

Inside, the space vibrated with the absorbed
energy of past performances. This unsettled
Ronald and gave him the feeling of being
watched. Only one other person possessed the
bravery or foolishness to attend today’s show:
a blond woman in a mohair sweater and a
scarf tied in a neat, looping knot.

Ronald’s wife stomped melting snow from her
boots. He checked the tickets.
Figures, he
thought. The woman sat in his row, directly
adjacent to his seats. And they were
his seats.
The tickets said so. The credit card statement
said so. His mere presence said so. He drew an
impatient breath and sidestepped into the row
ahead of his wife.

The woman turned to him.

Kathleen. Five years older, yet unequivocally
Kathleen.

He couldn’t quell the automatic tightening in
his chest, but gave no visual sign of recognition.

Neither did she.

He fumbled with his wife’s coat, and sat. He
attempted to settle his heartbeat with deep,
even breaths. When that failed, he studied the
cast list.

A play of three.

Ronald’s right side, especially his ear, grew
hot. He could reach out and touch her hand as
easily as pushing a check across a restaurant
table. He examined her fingers in a sidelong
glance and wondered if they felt the same after
half a decade. They held the program pages
with a delicate pinch, their tips hovering over
words before turning each leaf slowly and
softly. They tormented him with their
maddening closeness and insurmountable
distance.

“What’s this about?” his wife asked.

“Hmmm? Nothing. Nothing. Why?”

“It’s about something.”  Her unopened
program lay flat on her lap.

“What?”

“The play!”

“Oh. It’s a love story. I think.”

“Oh.”

Kathleen said nothing.

The house lights dimmed, the curtain unfurled,
and three people appeared onstage. Woman
One said something about taking an exotic trip
to celebrate an anniversary. “Sri Lanka. Or the
Congo. Someplace warm and wooded with
rainforests.”

The Man didn’t look at her as she spoke. He
looked past her at Woman Two, who stood
slightly stage right, absently flicking through a
travel brochure Woman One had dropped onto
a table upon entrance. Woman Two kept her
head down and glanced at the Man just long
enough to make sure he was watching her.
Flip, flip, flip. She continued through the
magazine.

“This snow is slowly killing me,” Woman One
said.

Ronald’s right ear grew hotter. He felt his right
leg shift slightly as the muscle involuntarily
tightened. He could almost feel the threads of
their clothes touching once more.

Outside, the storm thickened. Ronald’s car
sank beneath the swirling drifts and the city
stopped breathing.


Todd Benware teaches high school English, Shakespeare, and
Creative Writing. His story,
"A Sip of BlackBerry," was named
Honorable Mention in the 2011 Gemini Magazine Flash Fiction
Contest. His poems have appeared in Plainsongs, and Bombay
Gin, and he is currently seeking representation for his young
adult novel, Shedding.
THE PLAY’S THE THING
by Todd Benware