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“Just chalk it up to experience,” Mattie’s mother said, as another man broke her heart. She’d smile and turn away but Mattie could see the disappointment hanging off her mother like a cut price bauble on an old Christmas tree.

Mattie never let this happen. Instead, she bottled heartbreak. Displayed on the open box shelves at the back of her coffee shop sat the vessels she shaped on her wheel and fired in her kiln. Some were tall, like the Italian who tried to teach her the best way to make fresh pasta like his Mamma used to make; others squat, like the ex-squaddie who’d let his fists talk when he didn’t want to. She bottled it all, their lies, their infidelities, their unreturned phone calls. Then she stuck in the cork bung.

She dusted them down twice a week, careful not to dirty their pristine paintwork in chalky shades of cream or duck egg blue, others the colour of the mocha or latte she served to her customers.

She would watch the customers as they talked over their drinks. She would see the men grow wary and look over their shoulders, sensing but not certain that something was amiss. Across the table from them, their girlfriends grew, sat taller, more confident, inspired.

The vessels never stirred, their contents safe, the men within contained to keep them from the world.

Flash Fiction by Susan E Barsby

Published in Spring 2017


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