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Drinks With Sheila and John (Deceased)

The radio boasted of gridlock so we took the lesser known route. We were making good progress until Mary slammed her hand on the dash and said, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“What bad thing ever happened to you?” I said.

“Not me. Sheila. She was so happy, before.”

Sheila met us at the door with kisses and questions and we told her how well she looked. Inside, she steered us into the living room then went to the kitchen to make drinks. We sat on the sofa, knees facing out, the embers of our argument glowing in the car to be gently blown back to life on the journey home. There was John’s chair: salmon pages of the Financial Times folded to the stock pages; television remote wedged between the cushions; coffee cup on the arm.

“It’s not right,” I said.

“It’s a process,” Mary said. She stood and swept all of John’s things onto the floor and sat down in his chair, nestling her small bottom into the larger grooves left by John.

“Are you mad?” I said. “Get up before she comes back.”

Sheila came in from the kitchen with a try of scratchy nibbles and two tinkling glasses.

“You’ve forget my drink,” I said.

Sheila smiled and shook her head and set the tray on the table.

“That chair brought John so much pleasure,” she said.

She draped one arm over Mary’s shoulders and curled up in her lap like a cat.

I looked at them for a moment, at my wife and John’s wife, and said, “You really shouldn’t be sitting in John’s chair.”

Flash Fiction by R Coupland
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Published in Summer 2017


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