KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 2: Winter 2015
Flash Fiction: 844 words


by Charles Hansmann

We went into the hall and Phyllis walked ahead while I pulled the door tight and listened for the click of my self-locking lock. She had unusually expressive scapula, and I watched them register a willed unflinchingness as she looked toward the street through the front door’s pane.

The car with the gleaming fender was the other side of the streetlamp. Phyllis gave it a long steady stare. “Some people like to watch,” she said. “Do you feel like walking, or should we ask him for a ride?”

When we got to the curb she steered me toward the car. We stepped down to the street and leaned against the hood. It was warm from the engine and the heat of the metal dug into my hip joints. I glanced back at the windshield but couldn’t see through it.

Phyllis had tucked her hands in her pockets, but only to the knuckles, and the pose gave her arms an akimbo preparedness. She looked up at the sky.

“Same moon,” she said. “See how different it looks?”

The moon hadn’t moved, stuck at eleven, and clenching my tee shirt she pulled my face close. Her eyes were fierce and she gave me a kiss that felt like I’d been bit and spat out.

“Let’s go, sister,” she said as her sneer broke away from my lips.

We walked arm-in-arm toward the esplanade, the headlights trailing their fake phosphorescence behind us. Phyllis didn’t glance back, but her arm was rigid. When we got to the corner she stopped and leaned back against a shop’s rough wall, her profile lit in the stopped car’s headlights.

“Touch me,” she said, “but don’t kiss.”

Nothing, it’s said, is stranger than the night, and as I leaned against the wall I fingered her breast as if I were gauging its contents. Her face turned on to what this touching felt like, and as she turned toward the car she lifted her chin with impersonal defiance.

Then we stepped around the corner to the strand, where the nightlife felt frayed, like a shorted current, as if wires were bare and the energy burned a circuit of least resistance. It seemed we could walk here forever, lost and only fleetingly finite. Except that forever was something we could finally escape, so that this one night would hold all we ever needed.

We went into an alley that was narrowed with trashcans and scooters.

“So much for him,” Phyllis said, as the car slid by on the street.

At the end of the alley was a bare neon sign with two letters in blue shining stark against the night and the dappled white stucco: WI.

Phyllis grabbed me by the belt. “Let’s go in.”

Down the length of the alley we kept pronouncing those letters: WI.

“The eternal question,” Phyllis said, “with an alternate spelling.”

“Wireless without the fidelity.”

We took stools at the bar and ordered the advertised beer. Phyllis took a swig and set her bottle down fast with the foam coming up through the neck. I threw back my head for a long cold guzzle. The beer shot to my brain and I liked what it did there.

People kept coming in, but we couldn’t see the door. They were dancing to a song called “Sandwich Cubano.” “I’ve seen that in the city,” Phyllis said. “There they call it ‘The Bridge.’”

She leaned back on her stool and her foot slipped down from the rung. Our elbows were touching and hers went slack. “My marriage felt like a job,” she said. “I just couldn’t stand it. With you I don’t need a place to stand.”

“It’s your loneliness,” she said, “that makes you fun to be with. You’re the saddest man I know. Why do you make me so happy?”

“You mean what failures?”

“What shipwreck.”

“I could never understand why Crusoe wanted off that island.”

The dancers were moving in mime to the lyrics. They did it in a stylized way that looked more choreographed than raunchy. I laid money on the bar and we slid from our stools.

“I’m yours,” Phyllis said, “and if you want to, you can be mine.”

I felt those words at the bottom of my heart, the very bottom, where the harness of hurt vies with the whip of desire. A fanciful notion, and the feeling didn’t last. When we hit the open air I could tell once again that nothing had touched me.

In the morning there wasn’t much to say. One look at each other and we both seemed to know this. Phyllis packed quickly and left without a word, handing me the key as I walked her down the hallway.

The car pulled up and the familiar fender slipped into shade. Phyllis shut her phone and got in with a deliberate economy of motion.

As the car drove away all sound turned off. I sat in my apartment listening for something to hear: a plant in need of watering, a drop building bulk on the rim of a faucet.

Charles Hansmann
Issue 2, Winter 2015

has five poetry chapbooks published, most recently Apostasy of the Wayless Poet (Tebot Bach, 2013) and Poem of the Ahead Places (Kattywompus, 2013). His haibun and haiku have appeared in numerous haikai magazines and anthologies. He has fiction forthcoming in Star 82 Review.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Haibunesque, 3700-word article by Hansmann on working prose into lineated poetry for his chapbook of linear poems, The Loneliness Jacket; includes five poems and appears in Haibun Today (Volume 5, Number 2, June 2011)

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