KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 2: Winter 2015
Flash Fiction: 939 words

Wendy and Brian on the Last Night
of the World

by Kathryn Kulpa

I came to your New Year’s Eve millennium party on the last night of the world. You asked why I came two hours early and told me to take off my yellow sunglasses. I kept them on. I liked looking at you through those glasses. They made you look yellow. Not yellow like yellow snow or liver failure. They made you look like sunshine, like the yellow center of a daisy, like a golden girl who’s been nothing but loved all her life. They made you look happy.

That was why I wouldn’t take them off. That was the way I wanted to see you. I told you everything had a shadow self, and I was seeing those shadows now, stronger and truer than the things themselves. I was seeing them inside my head. I couldn’t make myself not see them.

Remember, when we were kids, how you’d make fun of me for playing those same three albums over and over? Only those three—and one of them was so old our dad had left it when he took off. That Simon & Garfunkel album; I wish I still had it. It wasn’t that I loved the music so much. It was the way I knew it so well that it screened everything else out, like a pool filter, catching all the swirling leaves and dead bugs that would stick in my head otherwise. I have a full mind and an empty stomach, I told you. I wish it was the other way around.

You took my glasses off and gave me a plate of bruschetta. “Sober up before people get here,” you said. That bossy way you do sometimes, like you were Lucy and I was Linus. But I wasn’t drunk, and you knew it.

You were right on the edge of everything, and I knew it. People were saying it was going to be your comeback year. I knew how hard the last year had been for you, when you were going to do the reunion show and then you didn’t do the reunion show and you went to Greece the way you’d always wanted to and you wrote your book. And you were something more than campy and cute, and the short-attention-spanned world remembered you.

Now they’re calling you again. Talk shows, magazine interviews. Now He Who Shall Not Be Named has dropped his lawsuit. Now he’s left the country, as men in our life seem to do when the going gets tough. But you’re hanging on. I know you’re chewing your fingernails down to blunt stubs because the only other thing you could do is pull out your hair. But you’re not pulling your hair. Your hair looks great. You’re not hiding in long sleeves. You’re wearing a red sleeveless dress like a fuck-you to the world, like you don’t care if they see those lines up and down your arms fading from pink to white. When I look at those lines through my yellow sunglasses they’re not even white anymore. They’re almost not there. And I know that part of you is sad they’re fading, because they’re all you have left of him.

He left, the way our father left, but you’re still here, brave in your sleeveless party dress, dancing with Audrey the Millennium Pug. You put her face on your New Year’s party invitations, Audrey in a party hat, because you love that drooling, snorting pug so much. And that’s a good thing, because when she sees you coming, even if you’ve only left the room for ten minutes, she wags that curly pig tail of hers so hard her whole stumpy little body does an ecstatic hula.

For you. So at last you love something that loves you just as much.

Maybe it’s the last night of the world tonight. Maybe it’s not. I’ll be okay with that, either way. I’m glad I got to see you in your red dress. I’m glad I got to see you dance with Audrey the Millennium Pug.

There was something I wanted to tell you. I drove by our old house the other day, the one you never want to drive by. There’s an addition now, a new garage. Otherwise it looks the same. I saw two kids there, a girl and a boy. For a minute I let myself get lost in a Twilight Zone dream that they were us. A little Wendy and Brian, all over again, and I was grownup me and kid me at the same time, sent back from the future to give a warning. But what warning could I give? What could I say that wouldn’t make kid you and kid me run into the house, screaming about the creepy guy watching us?

Stranger means danger!

Still I watched them for one more minute, some other brother and sister bouncing on a trampoline, superhero cloaks flying. I thought of us playing by the swimming pool. You were Darth Vader and you let me be Luke. You always let me be Luke. I always won, and you always died. You were the best at dying. You’d fall backwards into the pool, no hesitation, arms thrown out. You’d let yourself sink, eyes closed. I knew you’d be an actress, even then. You never broke character. But I did, screaming your name when you’d stay under too long, and you’d pop up, hair streaming, laughing, and it was like when the sun comes out after a long rain; of course it came back out, you knew it would, but still: the relief.

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