“Sweat” & “Regret”

by: T.E. Cowell ((Header art by René Magritte.))

Two offerings of penetrative flash-fiction that make the case for possessing greater self-awareness and accountability in life…



Sarah ran every morning except on Sundays. She figured she needed at least one day of rest, and Sunday seemed as good a day as any. John asked why she ran so much soon after they started dating and Sarah, without much of a pause if any, said, “I feel gross and bloated all day long if I don’t.”

She’d wake up at five on the dot and be out of her apartment by six where she’d run for an hour. When she returned to her apartment she’d be sweaty from head to toe. She’d take off her running clothes – a sporty tank-top, mesh shorts and white socks – in the bathroom and then hop in the shower. Soon after John started staying the night at Sarah’s place, he woke up one morning to find her gone and figured she was still out on her run. He got out of bed with an urge to urinate. The bathroom door was open a crack, and after John opened it wider he saw Sarah standing on the tiled bathroom floor with her back to him. She was just starting to take off her running clothes.  

John watched her peel off her tank-top as if it were a giant band-aid, then toss the tank-top into the plastic basket she put all her dirties in. John looked at Sarah’s skin, marveling at how sweaty it was. He could see droplets of moisture first on her lower back and between her shoulder blades, and as he watched her peel off her shorts he saw the droplets on the backs of her thighs. Her panties were so soaked through that he could see the definition of her ass as clearly as if she were naked.

John knocked on the bathroom door to get her attention, and Sarah turned around quickly, clearly startled.   

“Morning,” John said. “Sorry to disturb you.”    

Sarah stood in the bathroom stiffly. She put her arms straight out in front of her, clasped her hands together, narrowed her shoulders and said, “I’m sweaty” in an apologetic tone that John found quite charming.    

“I can see that,” he said. He stepped towards Sarah and touched her arm near her shoulder.

 “Don’t!” she said. “That’s gross!”  

“Sorry,” John said, and took a step back.

It was strange for John to see a woman he was dating all slick and sweaty. He had never seen a woman, one he was dating or otherwise, in such a condition before. In fact, he might not have known that women could get as sweaty as Sarah had become after her run. Lust, John thought after touching Sarah and feeling her sweat, is stronger than disgust.



A yellow jacket flew into my beer and stung my tongue after I raised the can and attempted to take a sip. It was late January and unseasonably warm, and in all likelihood, it was the first day of the year the yellow jackets decided to show themselves. At any rate, it was the first yellow jacket I’d seen since last summer or early fall. I hadn’t been stung by a yellow jacket in years, not since I was a kid, and never on the tongue. On impulse (or at least it seemed that way), I spit the yellow jacket out of my mouth along with the beer I’d initially had in mind to swallow. The yellow jacket landed on the ground by my feet and I heard it buzzing. It looked like it was trying to fly away, but it was clearly unable to, due, I think, to the generous amount of beer it had mixed itself with. My tongue was beginning to throb and, angry at the yellow jacket, I stepped on it with the sole of my slipper, killing it instantly. Then, a moment later, despite my now injured tongue, I regretted what I had done. I regretted it because I was to blame for allowing the yellow jacket to make it into my beer can in the first place. If I hadn’t brought the beer outside, the yellow jacket never would’ve ended up squashed on the pavement. I had been listening to music on my headphones and staring at the sky and the trees and all the little birds in the trees, and so I hadn’t heard the yellow jacket buzzing about. If I had heard it, I could’ve easily lifted my beer and moved it away from the immediate vicinity of the yellow jacket, thus inhibiting its descent into the can and ultimately preventing its death and my tongue from having been stung. But now the yellow jacket was dead and my tongue still throbbed, but my heart, or conscience, or whatever you want to call it, throbbed even more.

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