by: T.E. Cowell ((Header art by the incredibly talented artist Austin Shaw.))
Two offerings of flash fiction that celebrate the finer things in life…
After work I have a beer. It doesn’t last nearly long enough. I’m done with it before I know it. So then I have another beer. When I finish that one, my mind’s able to wander some. I can think about things now as if from a distance. I feel safer than I felt two beers ago, and happier. I have another beer. After this beer, I think that this life of mine isn’t so bad. Sure, things could be better, I reason, but they could always be worse too. For instance, I think, what if I couldn’t afford to buy beer? What if I didn’t have a job? What if I didn’t have this roof over my head?
I have another beer, thinking now that I’ve come this far, I might as well finish off the six-pack. After this beer I’m thinking about how awesome life is, how I’ve got this great job and a little bit of money and my health and most of my looks are still intact, and how any day now I’m bound to meet a cute new girl who’s down for whatever. I take the last beer of the six-pack out of the fridge. I’m bordering on drunk now. I drink this beer and then move over to the couch. I lie down and close my eyes. When I open them it’s a brand new day.
I listen to the radio at work. I work for UPS and I am usually driving around in one of their big brown vans for five to six hours a day on average, so I can get away with listening to the radio at work no problem. I listen to jazz and the news; I balance between the two. I typically start with jazz and when I hear a song where a man or a woman starts singing, I switch over to the news. I like my jazz lyric-free. I particularly like jazz that’s slow-paced and nocturnal-sounding. For me, the best jazz conjures up images of the night, of romance and of heartache.
One day while listening to the jazz station I delivered a package to a house. A woman opened the door right as I was about to leave the package on her doorstep, and she smiled at me and I at her. I handed her the package, she thanked me, and then she said, “I like your music.”
Hearing this, I turned and glanced at the UPS van as if the music were something tangible, something I could see. Then I looked back at the woman. “Do you like jazz?” I asked.
“Didn’t I just make that clear?” she said.
I stood on her doorstep a second or two longer, listening to the jazz coming from the van’s open sliding door, her seeming to listen to it too. Then I said, “Well, have a good one,” and started to turn around.
“You too,” she said. I caught the hint of another smile on her pretty face before I got back to work.
After that day I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I thought I was in love, ridiculous as it sounds, but I did. All it takes for me to lose myself is a few choice words and a pretty-faced smile. I’m a sucker.
I wanted to listen to jazz with her. I wanted to learn all about her and love her and be loved back. Needless to say, I looked forward to delivering to her house again, and whenever I did I made sure the jazz station was on and that the volume was up extra loud so that she’d hear it clearly should she emerge from her house. I took my time dropping her packages on her doorstep, hoping she’d open the door and, like before, listen to the jazz with me.
It never happened. Before I knew it the house went up for sale. New people moved in, a couple, and I never saw her again.