Thursday, September 4, 2014

Flash Fiction by Jim Meirose


Harpies

Margaret came in the yellow kitchen and flicked on the light.  Centipedes scurried out of sight under the stove and under cracks in the baseboard.  Margaret got the big black iron stew pot from the refrigerator, put it on the stove, and lit the gas.  Mother Rose came into the room trailing her scarf as Margaret put knives forks and spoons and plates out onto the chrome trimmed table.  Mother Rose went to the glass-fronted side cabinet and opened it and reached for the dark brandy bottle.  Margaret was quicker--she pushed Mother aside and grabbed the brandy bottle down from the shelf and pressed it to her breast.  Rose grasped at it.

Give me that bottle, said Rose--I need it--I want to get out of here--this lousy place--the brandy takes me out of here--give it to me.

No Mom, said Margaret, holding the bottle closer--you're a damned drunk--

No, I'm not, shouted Rose--I need that give it to me--

As she clutched at the brandy bottle, Jeffrey came in the room, open mouthed and haggard.

--give me the bottle--Margaret, I am your Mother--

--No--you're a lush, Mom--you're a damned lush--

God, said Jeffrey, tearing his hair, looking from Rose to Margaret and back again--don't argue--you're always arguing--please don't argue--

Ignoring him, Rose went on, pounding her palm into her own chest, her black eyes bulging.

--I need the brandy for my nerves Margaret--you're a damned prude--a damned prude is what you are--

The stew pot softly simmered.

Margaret held Mother at arm's length.

No Mom--it's bad for your health--it will just make you more nervous--you know how you get when you've had the brandy--

Jeffrey raised his hand and shouted and pushed between them.

No--Me!  I have had it with both of you--I will decide who gets the bottle!

No! said Margaret, setting the bottle on the table and pointing into Jeffrey's chest--you have nothing to go by to make that decision--

Oh no?  And why not--listen, he said, tearing his shirt--I am the man of the house!

Rose and Margaret froze a second, wide eyed.

--I am the man of the house--and you are mere women!

The stew pot bubbled on the stove.

What do you mean, mere women, barked Margaret.

What I said, yelled Jeffrey--just what I said--

As Margaret and Jeffrey faced off, Rose fumbled for the bottle--

Mom! said Margaret--no--no!

The two women wrestled with the bottle and it slipped from them and smashed to the floor.

Oh real smart Margaret, yelled Rose, kicking at the broken glass--real smart--

Margaret pointed from Rose to Jeffrey, saying If he hadn't said those shitty things bout us being mere women, it would never have happened--it's his fault--

Rose turned to Jeffrey, eyes ablaze.

Yes it is his fault isn't it!

The stew pot boiled harder.

Rose grabbed a kitchen knife from the table, as did Margaret--they advanced on Jeffrey, like two jagged toothed sharp clawed winged creatures, two harpies.

He did it--

Yes!  He did it.

Jeffrey fled out the door, ran across the living room to the staircase, and ran up and locked himself in his room.

My God, he yelled as he ran--my God--

In the kitchen, atop the broken glass and brandy puddle on the ground, Margaret and Rose smiled at each other as they waved the knives, and stamped hard on the glass shards on the floor, crushing them smaller and smaller until you'd never have known they had been a bottle.  The stew pot boiled up, finally out of control, spattering, spattering, spattering.



Jim Meirose's work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Pound of Flash, Collier's Magazine, the Fiddlehead, Witness, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Xavier Review, and has been nominated for several awards.  Two collections of his short work have been published and his novels, "Claire," "Monkey," and "Freddie Mason's Wake" are available from Amazon.



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