This is the 19th story I’ve posted as part of this flash fiction project. The last couple of weeks I haven’t felt particularly inspired, but that’s life. I aim to stick with the commitment to do this every week for a year.
By Laura McHale Holland
She is Jennifer Lopez minus the talent, drive and beauty; he is Bill Gates without the intellect and wealth. They eye each other at the corner gas station and store where she gasses up her Prius before dashing inside to buy the Press Democrat. He fills his ancient Volvo sedan before pulling $1.10 from his pocket for the Chronicle. His is the better paper, he thinks. Hers is the better car, she is sure.
Each one’s pulse quickens when he stands behind her in the checkout line, his lips inches from her thick brown hair. She reminds him of his daughter whose National Guard unit deployed to Iraq more than a year ago. He looks like she imagines her father would if his helicopter hadn’t been shot down in Vietnam when she was five years old.
She hands the clerk a five dollar bill for her paper. The man behind her clears his throat. She holds out her palm to accept her change. He coughs. She turns her face toward him, raises an eyebrow. “You okay, man?”
“Ah, um, yeah, it’s just the cold, I guess, you know, makes my throat dry or something.”
“Thanks,” the man says. But he doesn’t buy cough drops. When he returns to his Volvo, the young woman is pulling her Prius away from the pump. He glances at her, smiles and wonders why his daughter can’t be at home doing something ordinary like getting gas and picking up the paper. She smiles back at him and wonders why he can’t be dead instead of her dad.