Wednesday 31 August 2022

A Matter of Scale by Ann Richardson, iced water

It’s an old story, but each day someone new hears it. It goes like this: Once upon a time, there was a little mermaid who wished to become a girl. A witch gave the mermaid legs but demanded an offering of life in return. Instead of murdering the prince she had come to love, the little mermaid killed herself instead.


The Lord offered her another chance at life if she served him as an angel for three hundred years. She, having no better options, agreed. Consequently, God stationed her in the heavens to keep watch over kind children.


The three-hundred-year sentence is finally over. God has allowed LM to return to earth and live as a young human woman.


Once again, as a twenty-one-year-old on earth, LM feels an intense need to touch others and improve their lives. Like many saints and figureheads before her, LM believes this is her divine purpose. That’s why she’s become an ‘influencer.’


She awakes at 9:03 a.m. and puts a soft headband with floppy white cat ears over her hair. She purrs an anti-capitalist soliloquy into her rose gold iPhone 13 while applying strokes of rust-colored liner to her eyelids.


Today she is sharing the story of how she scavenged through the sports section of a local Goodwill to find the vintage marina blue leotard of her dreams. It is long-sleeved with a deep-V neckline, and more than one hundred gold stars shimmer incandescently across the bodice and sleeves.


‘Hello, water babies,’ LM says, as she glides the tail end of a horsehair makeup brush across her cheek. ‘First thing’s first. It’s time for my #OOTD! Do you like this 1960s gymnastics leotard that I thrifted at Goodwill? I love the gold stars, and Marina Blue has always gone with my eyes. Let me know what you think in the comments below. But remember to be nice! ‘


LM winks at the end of each sentence as the corners of her mouth reach for her earlobes, and then, just as quickly, they recoil back. As her hand casts a shadow over each warm eyelid, her words bake inside her mouth until each is ready to be delivered to the table of her hungry audience. She is highly skilled in the art of dropping each syllable like a crisp breadcrumb. The first bite is the appetizer of her arrival at the thrift store; the last sits on her tongue until it is time for the sparkling finish of her sartorial discovery.


She cocks her head to the right, points the makeup brush at the camera, and coos. And that’s when I saw this long-buried leotard staring back at me! Ready for resurrection! ‘


LM looks up at the ceiling as she delivers the last line, out of respect for the sheer spirituality of the moment. On a good day like today, LM regales her audience with tales from her past. Even after three hundred years of philosophical reflections, from inside her white, one-room studio apartment with a purple square on the wall that she uses as her background, she likes to keep it simple.


She’s not just an old human soul. Her soul is also part fish.


This is a complicated idea, and she has learned that complicated ideas confuse people. And when people are confused, they tend to swipe left or up. Therefore, she’s kept her past mostly to herself.


Depth of any kind muddies the waters of today’s content. And when a viewer must pause to reflect, if you will, on some type of life-altering insight, the likelihood they will hit that like button or share it with a friend precipitously decreases.


And that’s what LM’s new life is about: likes, shares, subscribes—and sponsorships.


Welcome to her channel.


This is a place where you can live on forever. So long as your story is out there. And LM intends to turn her legend into a legacy before this third life ends.


It is her fish self from which she is the most removed. But sometimes she’ll feel her former mermaid self fighting with her human self. Each personal question triggers more than 117,165 days’ worth of memories of those few days she spent wrapped in scales and fish nails—neither of which she can touch or smell anymore.


When she’s not on camera, LM often tells and retells her cat, Sinko, her three-hundred-year-old secret.


She’ll nudge his forehead with her nose and say, ‘Sinko, I don’t even remember the prince. I spent three hundred years as a servant to heaven for someone whose face and name I can’t even recall. ‘


While she holds him, she finds herself scrolling through TikTok, swiping past a video about popping an oversized blackhead to a video about making toasted tapioca balls.


Sinko purrs and lovingly strokes LM’s nose with his paw pad. He doesn’t care about the prince or social media. He hungers for shrimp, chicken, and liverwurst.


Sinko reminds her of a time when she appreciated simple things too. While stroking Sinko’s chin, she remembers a time when her entire personality didn’t revolve around camera angles or ring lights.


That’s why she has accepted an invitation from the Galleria de Mere. The invite requests her to be part of a live-performance art exhibit that features today’s most influential influencers. The exhibit is called ‘Two-Sided: Where Private Matters Meet Public Spaces.’


Each participant will have two days to show an ever-changing audience their public and private self within the confines of a three-by-five exhibition space.


No cameras or phones, just 100% raw, in-person content.


All nine influencers invited to be part of the exhibit will show the world a private side none of their followers have seen.


This means one thing for LM: It’s time for the world to know who she really is—or rather, was.


Because the distilled story you’ve heard was told by a man who didn’t know or care for LM. His aim was to use her tale as a cautionary one, and to achieve that goal, he thought nothing of making LM a martyr. LM was the protagonist, but she didn’t have any input into the script.


She knows that her past is a drop of water, and every drop of water can be swept away by other drops if you don’t protect it. And there is no single pair of hands that can hold an ocean back.


LM is thinking of this when she enters the Galleria. It’s a gallery space in a loft that’s part of a collection of lofts in a downtown building. It’s two-thousand-square-feet of exposed brick and black paint, with four thick cement pillars supporting a thirty-foot ceiling.


For her entrance, she wears a dress made of blue and turquoise taffeta with red high heels and a golden chain necklace. She is newly empowered by the magic of her golden chain, having just struck one more deal with the sea witch.


This time, she did not surrender her voice. Instead, she ripped out her wisdom teeth and wrapped them in silk. She delivered them to the witch’s cave. Her body has not forgotten how to breathe underwater, despite the long-ago loss of her gills.


The sea witch, in return, gave her the golden chain necklace, which is set with a purple diamond. The ring contained the magic necessary to create and recreate the tale of her life.


During the exchange, the sea witch traced LM’s cheekbone with a long fingernail and said, ‘I’m so glad we can be friends now, my darling. The past is the past, and no one will ever forget your name after they see what I’ve empowered you to do. ‘


As she enters the performance area, LM recalls the coolness of the sea witch’s nails, a coolness that fits the sea witch’s underworld aesthetic perfectly. As for LM’s aesthetic sensibilities, her exhibition space has been designed to embody her love of the ornate as well as opulence. A large emerald bed with a framework sits on a wooden stage covered in pink silk. In front of the bed is a water tank filled with saltwater, big enough for a large shark—or even a mermaid.


There are nine ‘bedrooms’ like this for the nine key influencers. Each will show a private audience a side of themselves no one has ever seen.


Before LM’s performance begins, she watches the other performers.


The raven-haired influencer named Drusilla, who is in a white and barren exhibition space, slowly turns herself into a machine. Drusilla replaces her veins with piping and the bones in her hands with nuts and bolts. Her knuckles become washers. Drusilla is twenty-four and tells her audience that by the time she is forty, the transformation into a machine will be complete. The audience gasps and claps, while never considering the fact that surely Drusilla will be dead before she becomes a robot, as no one can self-inflict such a change without leading to their inevitable demise.


The person next to Drusilla, called Persebel, is in a barren exhibit space that contains only piles of sand. He writes his personal history in a cursive font into piles of sand. His plump hands sift through the piles until each letter is perfectly formed. Each pile represents a year of their lives, and each year has its very own word: loss, energy, soulmate, dreams. Each word holds its place for a moment and then is washed away, and a new phrase replaces it. Each day, 29,200 transitions occur. The night is called reincarnation, and the next day he performs the ritual again.


On her emerald bed in her golden exhibit space, LM adorns herself with more thick gold chain necklaces that cover her chest, while meticulously sewing together a tail made of shining green gills, fins, and scales. With each stitch, she pricks a finger, first on accident and then on purpose, because her blood on the ivory sheets heightens the drama of the act.


She stops to brush her hair with a fork, something she saw in a movie once, and while she does this, people clap and tear up. She doesn’t quite understand all the fuss.


Initially, she wears her scales like underwear. Then, as each scale duplicates, the tail that is forming takes on a life of its own. The witch’s magic prevails, and the scales replicate uncontrollably, moving up her spine. Eventually, they crawl up her arms and her neck before swallowing her whole.


At the end transformation, her fingertips crawl across the floor, dragging the rest of her body to the water tank. At this moment, she becomes a rock climber. The left hand reaches for the first step on the ladder, then the right hand reaches for the next. As the muscles in her back tense and relax, her body and its green tail slither up the side until she reaches the top and jumps in.


She swims underwater for an hour—back and forth, back and forth—her neck growing heavy from her gold jewelry and constant motion. Her lungs remember how to breathe pure water in those moments. The salt invigorates her veins but then starts to clog her windpipe and settle in her pupils.


The sea witch’s ancient magic pulsates behind the whites of her eyes. She simultaneously bursts into laughter and cries. She howls at the audience and jumps out of the water like a dolphin.


Then she submerges herself in the water again until it turns from ashen blue to a deep crimson. From inside this pool of blood, her legs re-emerge, and her fins disappear. The audience, having witnessed her wiggling feet, applauds as if they are celebrating her enduring freedom—all the while knowing full well that she’ll swallow herself and outgrow herself again tomorrow.


She becomes more tired with each performance. In fact, they all begin to feel like a sacrifice. Every time she gains a scale, she loses a little more blood.


She calls her manager and asks him if the performances can end, as it is exhausting to rip oneself apart only to put the pieces back together repeatedly.


He requests she increase the number of days she performs —from two a week to ten, then thirty a month, then one hundred a month. And so on. Each time he promises she can quit after they make their first million dollars, get on the nightly talk shows and so forth. Each time she talks to him the conditions change.


She begins to become listless and sees her many numbered days as a performer as a series of overlapping incidences: Entirely similar, but also slightly different, and each somewhat dependent on one another—much like the scales of a fishtail.


Her one consolation is that everyone begins to see, at last, that LM was and is the mermaid from the old story that someone new hears for the first time each day.


During a performance that she believed would be one of her last, she slid her bloodied legs under the covers of the lovely bed they made for her. She closed her eyes and refused to move. She asked an audience member, who climbed the stairs to her stage and comforted her as she recovered, ‘This is who I am; this is who I will always be; when will it all be enough?’


I heard this from someone in attendance, of course. From an audience member who pieced together the narrative and whispered it into my ear at a small get together where I sipped wine and scrolled through my Instagram feed.


They told me LM lay there still, stitching her scales on and ripping them off one by one. They said she’ll kiss your cheek and sing her life story to you while she licks ice made of saltwater.


They said the curators of the exhibit will now braid your hair if you come to watch her, as many in the art world have grown tired of watching LM’s scales reappear and disappear, and the Galleria now needs ways to draw people to what has become a one-woman show.


Of course, this is just what I’ve been told.


About the author 

Anne Richardson likes to write gothic fiction. She also likes cats, dogs, tarot cards—and the people who love them too. 


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Tuesday 30 August 2022

One Candle by Mari Phillips, tepid tea

 She remembered how things used to be. Raspberry jelly with wobbly pink blancmange; friends in silly hats singing a tuneless happy birthday; mouths smeared with chocolate and squabbles over parcels and donkeys’ tails.

Cakes with candles and champagne became cakes without. ‘Too many, we won’t remind you, auntie,’ they said. ‘They’d be a fire risk.’ They laughed. And now a bloody cup-cake. Just the one and a beaker of tepid tea. Her heart cried. She reached out her arm. Was that her hand? A knobbly, wrinkled claw. When did that happen? Her head sank back onto the pillow, and she closed her eyes. Not even enough breath for one candle.  



 About the author

 Mari lives in Leeds, writes mostly flash fiction, with several published in Café Lit, and is working on a couple of ‘longer’ short stories. She also occasionally dabbles in poetry. She is a keen singer and traveller, both activities slowly re-emerging after lockdown. 
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Monday 29 August 2022

Guardian Angels by Will Maguire, beer


I don’t believe in luck or fate or coincidence.

But I do believe in guardian angels.

I do because one night I took a subway train to Chinatown in New York City, I was saved by one, and somehow that same night, I became one. 

At 18, I was a naïve, dark-haired college basketball player, certain I was headed for the Hall of Fame.

One night, after a game in Madison Square Garden, I got drunk. As drunk as I have ever been. Waiting for the subway, I got separated from my friends. 

Uptown was home and downtown was lost. I stepped on the express train to lost.

At night in Manhattan, roaring through dark tunnels, it’s easy to lose your way. Alone, drunk, and now sick, I got on and off train after train. Then, exhausted, I stepped off onto a deserted platform in Chinatown. I slumped on one of the commuter benches and passed out. Much later, I felt someone shake me and looked up into the face of a stranger. 

“You don’t belong here,” he said. I tried to answer, but could only manage the untranslatable lost language of Budweiser.

After a moment, the man said, “Come with me.”

He got me to my feet and helped carry me up onto the streets of Chinatown. We waited there in the dark, until finally, the stranger hailed a Checker Cab.

“Get in,” he said. And as we drove up onto East River Drive, I passed out again.

Sometime later, I came to. The stranger was shaking me. It was dawn, and we were in front of my college.

“You’re home,” he said.

I looked into his face. “Who are you?” I asked.

“Never mind that,” he answered.

I got out, staggered and fell then stumbled to my dorm. I was sick for two days, the worst hangover of my life. Word spread across the campus. I had been saved. Saved by a guardian angel.


A couple months later, I got a call from a friend asking me to join him in Connecticut, fifty miles away, for a party. I agreed but there was no train and I had no car. All I had was my thumb.

In the afternoon cold, I shivered by the highway trying to get a ride. It began to snow. As late winter darkness fell, I was about to give up. One more car, I told myself.

A VW hurtled by, then slowed, and stopped. I ran, jumped in and thanked the driver, a man in his mid-thirties with sad eyes. As we drove, he kept glancing at me, and I began to have a feeling that I had met him somewhere.

Finally I said, “You look so familiar. Do I know you?”

He stared ahead into the black and the deepening snow. “You don’t remember?” he asked.

Then he told me a story.


“I’m a drunk,” he said. “Not a ‘get-tuned-up-on-a-Friday-night’ kind of drunk. I’m a ‘too-much-ain’t-enough’ drunk. But three years ago I met a girl and fell in love, and it changed me. I stopped drinking. But after years of bars, I needed someplace to go when the urge hit. I’m a college basketball fanatic, so every time I wanted a drink, I’d find a game instead.”

I listened and stared at him, trying to recall his face.

“A couple months ago I was at her place in Chinatown,” he said. “In the middle of the night, we had a terrible fight. We had talked a little about getting married. She said, ‘We belong together,’ but all I could think was, ‘I’m just a drunk. I’ll screw this up just like I have everything I’ve ever done.’

“So I said, ‘I need more time.' She blew up and ended it and I walked out. Standing on the street at 3am I decided three years sober was long enough. I was gonna find as much gin as there was in Manhattan to pour it on my heartache. But when I walked down into the subway, I saw this drunk kid passed out.”

“Me?” I asked.

He nodded. “I recognized you. I’d seen you play a couple times and knew what college you went to. Just then a train came through and stopped. I was about to get on when I turned and looked back at you. I had to decide, go crawl into a bottle or help you crawl out. The gin could wait. I dragged you up onto the street and into a cab.”


Darkness was all around the VW now and a blizzard of white swirled about us.

“You got out of the cab, and I watched as you stumbled away. The driver asked, ‘Where to?’ You staggered and fell, then got to your feet and disappeared inside the gate. ‘So what’s it gonna be, Bub?’ the driver said. I took a deep breath. What's it gonna be. 

“’Chinatown,’ I said.”

The deserted highway stretched before us, and snow filled the dark with white.

“We’ll be married later this summer,” he said.

We drove on in silence through the snowstorm. The drunk that saved a lost boy and the lost boy that saved a drunk, each through some unspeakable mystery, put in the other's path.

And later in the dark, he pulled to the side of the road to let me out near my destination.

As I stepped out, I turned to him and said, “My friends called you my guardian angel. You saved me."

“No,” he said. “If you had not been there, lost and drunk, I would’ve made a dive into a bottle and never climbed out. I would’ve lost the girl and then myself forever. You saved me.”

I closed the car door, with the black sky above and the snow swirling all around me. And I stood there watching the tail lights disappear into the night.


Sometimes now I have an odd feeling that this face I wear is not my own. That I am not who I think I am. That there is someone else quietly clamoring inside me. That he is whispering as loud as he can that I should remember. Remember who I really am. Remember what I have been all along.

When I was 18, my hair was dark. Now when I look in the mirror, all I see is a blizzard of white. For decades, my heart was as black as coal. Now some nights all I feel is white ash burning away the black at its edges. And sometimes just before sleep I still see a stranger who saved me. A stranger who I saved. 

I do not believe in coincidence. Only the innocent, the untouched, do. Those who have never felt some unseen mystery brush by. Those who have never felt something far greater than our small reckoning can fathom.

And so I do believe in guardian angels. I met one and once, long ago, I became one.

Now sometimes when my back aches, I think maybe, just maybe, I am finally growing wings.

About the author 

Will Maguire is a writer and songwriter living and writing in Nashville, Tennessee, after spending many years in New York City. His most recent stories appear in The Saturday Evening Post: "Higher Power" and "Unisphere." 
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Sunday 28 August 2022

Morning, again by Pam Plum, ristretto


Morning, again


It’s me, even though it isn’t. I wouldn’t wear that even to a fancy dress party. But in the dream, it is me. Always the same. Every night. Ever since...Well, you know when.

It’s not just the outfit, it’s the gas mask, the death mask I call it, and the rope, and the wide, wide river. It’s like I’m telling myself ‘Do it. Just do it.’ But I don’t want to. I shouldn’t have to. What happened to me is not my fault. Is it?

And that’s in the dream, too. I’m alone, yes, and somewhere awful. I feel it is so terrible, this place. Shades of grey amongst the darkness. Men are sliding in and out of the shadows, at the edge of the black corners of my consciousness. In my right hand, (it’s always the right, meaning good, right?) I’m holding an umbrella.

About the author

 Pam is a writer from NE England. Her work has appeared in Visual Verse and in Northern Crime One - a crime fiction anthology from Moth publishing and other places. She has self-published a YA novel Akos Novus available via Amazon. 
Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.) and getting the next book out.

Saturday 27 August 2022

Saturday Sample: The Script Challenge, craft beer


INTRODUCTION The challenge was to the authors we have already published to turn one of their short stories into a ten minute script. And here they all are. We looked for: 

  •  Effective adaptation of the origin text 
  •  Ease of production 
  • Something that could be Covid safe

 Here’s what we said about them: 

The overall winner 

This has to be Tony Domaille, Star Gazing. Tony’s script has the best balance of everything: 

Superb adaptation of short story script 


Ease of production 

Clear presentation 

Highly commended 

Margaret Bulleyment: Green Grass of Home 

An effective adaptation of an already effective story. This would also be easy to stage. 

Linda Flynn: Unseen Eyes I

Immersive Theatre An innovative piece and an innovative presentation in dramatic form. Covid-safe certainly.

Janet Howson: Cinderella’s 

Ex-drama teacher Janet has a good eye for the dramatic and much of this was already there in the original story. This is a skilful adaptation. 

Dawn Knox: The Stag Do

This is a competent adaptation of an already quirky and much-loved story. 

Neta Shlain: Total Loss 

A very detailed and innovative adaptation of a short story that has already gained a lot of attention. 

Dianne Stadhams: Sheep be Damned 

An effective dramatic monologue (mainly) and with ease of production, possibly as a film or a “stage” production. 

Read more and find your copy  here 

Friday 26 August 2022

Tricking a Wizard by Dawn Knox, bitter lemon

“Have you heard? The elf next-door is going to be on Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday.”

“What? Pipkin? No! Surely not. He’s got two left feet. In fact, he’s so clumsy, it’s like he has three left feet and one of those is on upside down.

“Well, apparently, he tricked a wizard into giving him a pair of magic dancing shoes.”



“Did you see Pipkin on Strictly Come Dancing last night?”

“No! How did he do?”

“He got kicked off.”

“But what about the magic shoes?”

“Well, his feet danced well. It was just the rest of his body…”


About the author

 Dawn’s three previous books in the Chronicles Chronicles series are The Basilwade Chronicles, ‘The Macaroon Chronicles and The Crispin Chronicles published by Chapeltown Publishing. 

You can follow her here 


on Twitter: 

Amazon Author: 

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Thursday 25 August 2022

Good Times by Dawn DeBraal, homemade lemonade

 Miss Delilah walked down Greenwood Street almost every day. Clarence Bauer liked to find himself on the front porch to call out a greeting to her. She'd smile and wave and make him feel giddy like a young man again. She always wore a dress and a hat, a bit old-fashioned, unless you remembered the days when women were dressed to the nines if they left home.

She took this seriously, not a hair out of place, her pocketbook in her hand. She would shop for her evening meal when the weather cooled down at about four o'clock in the afternoon. You could set your wristwatch by her meticulous timing.

Clarence checked his watch, audibly saying, "Oh," he stepped out on the front porch, and the squeaky screen door snapped shut. He sat on the porch swing waiting for Miss Delilah to parade by his house. She walked with the traffic going to Blanche's Market, she'd be on the other side of the road, but on her way home, she would walk right by his porch. He knew she would stop today because the purple cone flowers had bloomed overnight, sending the dazzling color through his fence and spilling over the sidewalk. She'd told him it was her favorite flower last year, so he saved the heads and spilled the extra seeds on the fall ground. Just as he'd hoped, twice as many flowers came up. They mixed with the orange daylilies and gave quite a show.

She was walking across the road with purpose and didn't look up to see him sitting there. He was alright with that; it gave him a chance to stare at her without being noticed. If she had looked up, he would have been reading the magazine he held in his lap, just in case.

Clarence's wife died three years ago, leaving him to ramble in the large Craftsman-style house he inherited from his parents. The three-bedroom home raised four children who had started their own lives many years ago. When Ethel died, he was mixed with emotions of relief that she was out of pain for her and devastating loneliness for him. That was until Miss Delilah entered his world two years ago. She bought the house down the street from him.

She was a handsome woman, stopping and talking to the children on the sidewalk. They all knew her.

"Miss Delilah!" they'd call. With the parent's permission, she'd stop and give them a cellophane-wrapped butterscotch disk. They squealed in delight. There it was, the reason she came back on the other side of the street. There were just as many children waiting for her after a shopping excursion to get their butterscotch candy.

Clarence knew that she would be about fifteen minutes in the store before she came past his house. He also knew the Baker children were the last on the block to receive candy before she went home. They seemed to know it was her time to pass also. Three children, two girls and a boy, played on the sidewalk after they'd drawn a hopscotch grid. They tossed a small stone; where it landed, they hopped one foot, then two to get to the rock to pick it up.

"There she is!" Cassie Baker squealed. Clarence felt his heart beat a little faster. It was time to pick up his mail. If he walked slow enough, he'd be returning from the mailbox when Miss Delilah walked by.

She was handing out candies when he opened the box and pulled out his mail. As Clarence turned, she was there.

"Good day, Miss Delilah."

"Good day, Mr. Clarence, your Echinacea look amazing. Even better than last year!" She’d used the scientific name for the flowers.

"I planted a few more this year. I like the look. Would you care for a glass of lemonade?" Clarence asked her this almost every day. She always refused. On the days he didn't have a pitcher made in the refrigerator, he silently hoped she'd say no.

"It's warm today. I would love a glass." Clarence opened the gate and escorted her up the sidewalk. She sat on the porch swing while he ran inside to get her a glass of lemonade.

"Thank you." She took the moisture-laden glass and held it to her face. He found that endearing.

"It’s a scorcher today, alright." Clarence sat next to her on the swing and slowly rocked back and forth, enjoying the company.

He wondered how long they would do this dance. He was seventy-five and no longer a spring chicken.

"Delilah, would you like to stay for dinner? I have a steak that is too big for me to eat alone." 

She blushed and then looked in her grocery bag.“I brought things to make a salad. That would be a wonderful idea. Take me to the kitchen."

Clarence opened the squeaky screen door and showed her where she could make her salad. He started the grill while she chopped the lettuce, making herself comfortable in his kitchen. It had been to many years since a woman helped make dinner, and he liked the feeling.

"If you show me where your dishes are, I will set the table." 

He pointed to the cupboard near the sink. She opened the door grabbing the good dishes. He almost corrected her; those dishes were for special occasions, but he kept that to himself.

Clarence went to another cupboard, pulled out a bottle of wine, opened it to let it breathe, going back outside to flip the steak.

When he came in, he saw fresh salad next to a vase of coneflowers at the center of the table. He almost showed dismay at having those flowers cut from their stems in the prime of bloom but remembered there were so many at the gate, that a few in a vase inside didn’t take away from their beauty.

"I hope you don't mind. I thought I should bring a few flowers to enjoy while we eat."

"No, I don't mind at all,” Clarence lied as he poured a small amount of wine into the glasses, and they toasted.

"To friendship," Delilah offered. Clarence liked that sound, feeling he was not being disloyal to Ethel.

"Tell me about her." Delilah took a sip of wine.


"The one who chose these beautiful dishes, they are too nice to be in a cupboard. I could tell they weren't your everyday dishes, but at our age we need to enjoy these things. No more saving them for good. These are the good times."

Clarence had to agree with her. He hadn’t used these dishes in many years. For what reason? He didn't know.

"She was an amazing woman; we were married fifty years. She was the kind of mom who put on neighborhood plays where all the kids wanted to gather. She was creative, loving, and giving."

"She sounds amazing."

"She was. Were you ever married?"

"I was engaged. He went to Vietnam and never came back."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Clarence said, regretting he'd brought it up. Delilah looked at him strangely and then laughed.

"Last I heard, he is still alive. No, he met someone in the service, a nurse. I got a “Dear Jane” letter. I was so heartbroken; I never trusted another man."

"You were a nurse, weren't you?"

"Yes, I loved the job. I still volunteer when needed, but I am glad those days are behind me. I like being retired."

They chatted, drank wine, and sat on the porch swing until it darkened.

"Goodness, I need to get home!" Clarence offered his arm and escorted her three houses down the sidewalk.

"Thank you, Clarence. I had a lovely time."

"I did too. We should do this again."

"Yes, and soon. The next time we get together, you will come here!" Clarence's smile was broad as he walked back to his house, his step lighter than it had been for years. Delilah was the salve he needed for his soul, and he looked forward to seeing her again.

Clarence washed and dried Ethel's good China. He opened the cabinet and started to put the plates at the back when he changed his mind and set the good China in front of the everyday dishes. Delilah was right. He would use these beautiful plates and enjoy them. These were the good times.


About the author

Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, Red, two rescue dogs, and a stray cat. She has published over 500 stories, poems, and drabbles in several online magazines and anthologies. 


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