While My Wife Is Out Of Town* a 2017 UK Flash Fiction Prize Winner, originally published in Retreat West’s Impermanent Facts
Two light bulbs burned out in the basement, so I used the flashlight app on my smartphone while carrying my cat with the other hand to ward off any ghosts.
I’m brushing my teeth in the shower while shampooing my hair and lathering my chest hair and the places on my back I can’t quite reach, because I can’t just stand in front of the mirror brushing my teeth doing nothing.
The four-dollar cinema is playing a documentary on cats in Turkey tonight, and I’m enamored with their relationships, the cats and the people and how they depend upon each other, the cats for the food and the people for the soft company, but I’m also reminding myself that in three weeks the credit card bills are due and so is rent, and the car payment is due in three days, and I’m eating two delicious pizza slices.
I’m pretty sure everyone has been having ads broadcast to them in their sleep since everyone is drinking La Croix these days, and this is by no means an endorsement, just an observation.
I’m not feeling well so I’ll hide like a house cat where no one notices, somewhere they can’t ever find me, somewhere I can’t hear the cellphone buzzing.
The dishes in the sink are getting crusty so I’ll let them soak in room temperature water for five days while my wife is out of town.
The fresh smelling laundry is still warm and piled up on her side of the bed so I’ll play the big spoon.
The piano won’t play itself, and my hand stabs the keys to see if a song can write itself, and the silence twanging off her guitars is louder than the empty fridge humming.
The pizza delivery guy just wants his tip, not an invite to hang out and play catch up on all these years we never shared; that’s cool, maybe next time, next pizza.
The classics on my shelf could use a nice crease in their bindings so I tuck myself into this cooling laundry pile and feel my eyelids lower over blurring prose I’ve longed to live within.
These sneakers are cursing under my barking arches, and the autumn air rings with leaf blowers, and a chirrup follows my jog before, in one grand leap, I’m now chasing it.
On stage, a sixty-two-year-old-woman sings, her body contorting along with a prerecorded track designed by an underground 70s band none of us have ever heard, and her voice wavers how the open mic host paces with his eyes darting around the room, like he can’t decide if she should get a second song like everyone else has so far.
The bar’s macaroni and cheese takeout tastes fine in the dark, in my quiet home, my cellphone buzzing, the screen’s light filling my eyes, her message saying, “How was your day?”
Jude's writing has appeared in both the US and the UK through various lit journals, anthologies, and short films. He also hosts and produces the literary "radio theatre" podcast Storytellers Telling Stories, available at sttspod.com.
Tania Hershman, (author and judge of the 2017 UK Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize) said: "[Jude’s writing] takes risks in its structure, going off on tangents, not following a linear narrative, and the risks pay off. It is dark and funny and moving and strange. There is not a word too many or too few, and every word is precisely chosen, the character’s voice never strays…I could read this again and again and again."
-2018 Gertrude Press Chapbook Contest Runner-up
-2017 UK Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize Winner
-2017 New Millennium Writings Muse October Prize Winner
-2017 Montana Book Festival Finalist
Say What You Will - Season 2, Ep.10 - the Storytellers Telling Stories podcast
We Didn't Know What Was Happening - Season 1, Ep.21 - the Storytellers Telling Stories podcast
STORIES IN PRINT:
Stephen O’Donnell’s “The Untold Gaze” - 2018
Impermanent Facts: 20 winning stories in the Retreat West prizes - 2018
The Clackamas Literary Review 20th Anniversary - 2017