Some things in life are harder than they need to be. Relationships can be like that. We are nothing if not insecure, jealous and bad tempered (if we’re lucky) and when you put two of us together there are bound to be rough spots. This story shows that it’s not necessarily something we outgrow. How fragile the human ego? How desperate the need to be loved and, contrarily, to push away those very people from whom we need it? Nevolena Pena’s title captures so perfectly the irony of just such cruelty.
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“Las Flores y El Juego” by Nevolena Pena
“Quién te dio las flores?
” he asked as she set them down on the kitchen table. He noticed that she had come through the back door and he wondered if she was trying to hide them.
“Mr. Anders. He gave them to me for my birthday. Están bonitas, no
,” she said as she judged his reaction, concerned about how he would respond to the friendly gesture.
“Y eso qué es?
” he asked and pointed to the Scrabble game she held under her arm. He didn’t like the fact that his 70-year-old wife had gone back to work because he couldn’t, and he didn’t like the fact that her employer, Mr. Anders, was only a few years older than her and a few years younger than him. He often had dreams that the two were intimate and at times had difficulty determining whether it was a subconscious paranoia or reality. Telling her about the nightmares would only alarm her, so he kept the incidents to himself.
it’s a game. Se llama
Scrabble. Do you want to play? It’s fun, Arturo. You just make words.”
“Se oye como juego de gringos,
” he said disgusted. “Why did he give it to you?” he asked and stared at the box as if it was a symbol of something else, something that cemented his belief that there was something else to their relationship.
“He gave it to me for my birthday.”
“But why that game, por qué chingados te dio ese juego?
” he said with a raised voice and suddenly realized he was yelling. Every Monday and Thursday she came back talking about Mr. Anders, how he used to be a pilot, how he kept a garden, how his children no longer visited, but he didn’t expect him to give her flowers and a game. It seemed a bit forward in his estimation of what a boss should provide for his employee. He felt that Anders was intruding and he was allowing him to do so without obstacle.
“Arturo, don’t be like that. It is just a game
sometimes we play when I’m done cleaning. We sit and have coffee and play. It is nothing. I practice my English, that is all.”
“So now he pays you to play games with him?”
“Arturo, no mas es un juego
, that is all. Mr. Anders is a good man,” she pleaded and felt her husband was overreacting to an innocent gesture. Mr. Anders was a good man and the time they spent together was platonic. A widower, Mr. Anders hired Gloria more for company than cleaning and the two often shared conversations that stemmed from the Scrabble matches themselves.
“I don’t like it. He pays you to clean, not to play. Y las flores?
“They are just flowers. Son tulips
. He grows them. Están bonitos, no?
“I don’t like it. Ese pedo de flores y juegos no mas no,
” he said as he looked over the flowers that appeared to have been freshly picked and carefully arranged.
“I can show you how to play,” she said hoping this jealous tirade would pass as quick as it came. “You just make words, Arturo. It’s fun.”
So I can be like your gringo boyfriend? Take it away from here. Pon lo en el closet so I don’t have to see it,
” he said as he motioned frantically to their bedroom. And as Gloria humbly heeded his demand, Arturo quickly scooted toward the bouquet of pink tulips, and with genuine malice, pinched each of them with the intention of ending any beauty they possessed.
Lyle Rosdahl, a writer living in San Antonio, edits the flash fiction blog & best of in print for the Current. He created, facilitates and participates in Postcard Fiction Collaborative, a monthly flash fiction response to a photo. You can see more of his work, including photos, paintings and writing, at lylerosdahl.com.
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