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Author: Kerry Rawlinson

The Accountant’s Day Off

Marilyn applies more foundation (#2 Medium Beige), to be safe. Her beauty-spot’s drawn in perfectly. She feels a frisson of joy. It’s a beautiful summer’s day for her weekly sortie.

She slips out the blood-red front door of #3 Turner Close. It’s an appropriate address, since there have always been 3 occupants. Initially: Dad, Mum and Martin. Then the day after Dad’s funeral, Marilyn moved in for good.

She saunters voluptuously 3 blocks to the bus-stop. Not #14 that Martin takes to work, but the other way; #27. Her destination: The Civic Gardens. She’s nervous and excited, tossing her platinum curls at the driver (because gentlemen prefer blondes). A small boy stares, mouth agape. She can’t calculate children’s ages, but he must be young, because when his mother turns to see what he’s staring at, she lifts him quickly onto her lap.

Neat little houses pass by like a movie-reel. Neat little forecourts. Men washing their little cars. Water-sprinklers sparkling like diamonds.

After 22 minutes, Marilyn alights at Gardens Café. She claims a window-seat, to people-watch. The servers whisper, as they do each week, but Marilyn flashes them her best Hollywood smile. Feeling decadent, she orders Turtle cheesecake and frothy cappuccino.

40 minutes later, Marilyn strolls through the Gardens, swinging her perfectly cute purse. The sun’s blazing, but Marilyn keeps her cardigan on. She hasn’t waxed her arms. The sky’s an aching blue, the rosebush borders perfectly symmetrical, their scent utterly heavenly. Her legs feel gloriously smooth as they brush sensually against her full skirt. She’d simply float away with happiness if she weren’t anchored by her darling new, rope-wedge sandals.

87 minutes later, Marilyn returns, opening #3 Turner Close’s front door as quietly as possible.

“Martin?” A tremulous wail exits the back bedroom, scratchy as those Blues singers on the old 45 records Martin listened to when he was 13.

“Martin? Is that you?”

She clears her throat. Her Adam’s-apple bobs up.

“Yes, Mum, it’s me”, she replies.

Marilyn wraps her new sandals (size 11) carefully in tissue-paper and shuts them back in the bedroom closet.

“I’ll be right there”, she calls. “I’m too hot . . . I have to change.”

Flash Fiction by Kerry Rawlinson
Picture: red lips by Crycks under CC BY 2.0
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You toss the stick over the bridge. You and Daddy rush to the other side—he lifts you high. In utter delight, you spy it! It sails magically onward below you, and is gone . . .

This is the lesson learned: that ebb and flow happens, regardless of your will. Currents propel you; or drag you below; or float your stick to the warm womb of ocean, receiving. It’s always been a matter of choice. In the beginning, Daddy let you have the choice of stone, or stick. In the beginning, you chose stones for their smooth, salt-and-pepper bodies; their cool indifference. Or in choosing a stick, you’d pick the showiest, the prickliest, sharp twigs projecting from their spines—not comprehending how they were designed to snag on shadowy sub-surface impediments, never to rise.

But Daddy helped you steer away from stones, guiding you to the one stick that was just right. How perfectly it sailed on its journey to the sea, buoyed by the Unknown like an adventurous bark, seeking new continents.

Then Daddy was gone.

No longer are there strong, warm arms to lift you high enough to see over walls. Suddenly there are many more walls. And somehow you’re back to choosing all the bad sticks—sticks with thorny ends. The meanest. You let them skewer you, just to feel the warmth of your blood welling into your palm. Your cupped palm, like a womb, receiving. But eventually you revert to stones. You fill your pockets with them, and then wander into the ocean, seeking that last perfect stick you shared. The one that remembered how to sail.

Flash Fiction by Kerry Rawlinson