New Fiction Friday!

Posted: May 6, 2016 in Fiction, Flash Fiction Friday

It’s that time of the month again! This month’s story was prompted by a die roll to pick one cocktail out of a possible twenty to use as the title and inspiration for the story. I rolled a “Mary Pickford” and since it’s a drink that was apparently born in the era of Prohibition, I wanted to set the story during that time. It’s also a time that overlaps with one of my favorite authors, so I figured I’d let that inspire me, as well. So, I give you “Mary Pickford”:

   He didn’t usually go wandering at night, but this wasn’t a normal night.

   He walked down the darkened city sidewalk, the light from the electric streetlights casting week circles of illumination into the darkness of the witching hour. The sounds of Brooklyn’s night life were loud and close, though: the occasional automobile, the calls of alley cats and dogs, the human inhabitants laughing and yelling and fighting. The tall, reserved man in the simple suit and the round spectacles flinched slightly at each sound, every instance like a blitzkrieg assault on his very sense of calm and existential rightness. But he would breathe and try to relax, but those efforts were halfhearted at best. Every time he passed a stoop where some dusky-skinned immigrants of one stripe or another sat, chattering away in their foreign tongues and eyeing him in ways that he couldn’t rightly interpret made his spine go ramrod straight, made his skin break out into gooseflesh. The thing that truly sent his nerves back into a dullness that would been anywhere close to what another person might describe “relaxation” was the looming thoughts of his present situation with Sonia.

    His chest felt simultaneously leaden and hollow as his thoughts returned to the decision that lay before him. It had been nearly a year since his wife had fled Brooklyn in pursuit of a living for the both of them. And while he had tried his utmost to find employment himself, he was a man in his mid-thirties who had never held regular employment. He had no job history aside from ghostwriting and stories submitted to pulp publications. What reasonable business owner would hire a man like him?

    The answer was few and far between.

    So, he had occupied their old apartment for as long as he could, surviving off the money she sent back home and what little payment he received from freelancing. But it had become quickly apparent that staying in Sonia’s old apartment, which they had moved into together once they’d married, wouldn’t be tenable in the long run. With much trepidation, he’d found himself occupying a small, efficiency apartment in Red Hook. The transition from the familiar, being surrounded by alienness in every form imaginable, it had begun to assault his psyche in a way that he’d never previously imagined possible. He had a hard time sleeping through the night, his once vivid and vibrant dreaming life now a dull grey marked mostly by recurring phantasms of nameless dread saturating the world around him. He missed the familiar space of the old apartment, of the old neighborhood.

    His missed his Sonia.

    And now…now his aunts were begging him to move back home. They were steadfast against the idea of Sonia re-establishing a business in the city of his birth as no nephew of theirs would be tainted by the social stain of having a tradeswoman for a wife. That had, understandably, produced strain between himself and Sonia. And though the last thing he wanted was to foster animosity between himself and his wife – she was the only woman he’d ever felt anything close to romance and desire for in his entire life – he couldn’t deny the lure of seeing his beloved aunts once more and returning to the familiar streets and buildings and sights of the city he’d spent most of his life within.

    He heard raised voices to his right that hushed quickly, which elicited another nervous flinch from the tall man and drew his vision from the sidewalk before him. A quartet of men and women were stumbling somewhat tipsily into the nearby alley from a side door in the five story building that rose on his right hand side. No doubt there was a speakeasy within, but he kept his forward pace with only the slightest hesitation in his steps.

    His mind flashed back to one of the first times he’d stepped out with Sonia, when they’d met at a convention in Boston five years previous. Somehow, despite her hailing from Brooklyn, Sonia had known where they could find a speakeasy within the twisting labyrinth of that hoary town’s streets. Of course, she’d always been more more worldly than he had been and not just because she’d been seven years his senior. Normally, he’d never have been caught dead in a place of such low-repute and high-illegality, nor would he have touched alcohol, but Sonia had enticed him with her charm and her smile and her wit. And they’d gone and she had ordered a Mary Pickford and he had sipped at some whiskey that had burned his esophagus in a strangely pleasant way and sent heat radiating out through his body that made him feel comfortable and relaxed.

    “Oh, Howard!” Sonia had laughed in delight, her hand touching his wrist in his memory as she looked at him. “How eminently wonderful you are when you let go!”

    His heart was heavy at that thought, the memory of her mirth and the sensuous upturn of her lips when she smiled.

    Howard sighed deeply, uncertain of what he should do, much less how to accomplish it.

    The comfort of the past? Or the uncertain happiness of the future?

    On he walked on into the New York night, Brooklyn giving him no insight or solace.

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