This piece of flash fiction by Ben Zarov was featured in the Fall 2016 issue of the Spittoon Literary Magazine.
In the morning writing was easy for her. Words came naturally, crisper, and her sentences vibrated at a higher frequency than her evening writing, which was burdened by the weight of the day’s events (she had ceased to even try anymore). She had a routine that she had stuck to for eight years: begin with a letter to someone, anyone. She wrote to television characters, movie stars, deceased authors, old flames, loathed bosses and very rarely, to herself. She had written four complete novels and over two dozen short stories. She had sent none of them into the world and none of them were published. No one close to her knew she wrote. Sometimes, during the day, she herself was unsure. Her first book was a historical romance set in northern Mexico in the early nineteen twenties. She had written two endings for it, one tragic and the other fairy tale and she was unsure which of the two was right. In the first the protagonist, a brilliant young peasant woman, takes her own life to save her lover’s, a strapping American officer that had deserted the army after converting to Buddhism. In the second ending the two escape on a cargo ship headed west. They disembark in Thailand to finally settle, happy and far, far away from their former troubles. She had visited Mexico once as a child but not Thailand. Briefly she had dated a police officer from her small town though she had never come close to loving him. Every morning she wrote by hand one letter and at least five pages of prose. Sometimes she believed it was therapeutic, other times she simply continued out of habit, unaware that soon her hobby would change her life and the life of her next door neighbor, a lonely young man drifting through life, squandering his inheritance.
Switch the laundry. Do the dishes. Change your thoughts and change your world. Match your socks, fold your pants, and roll your T-shirts. The best way out is always through. Vacuum the living room. If it were not for hope the heart would break. Collect the mail. Recycle the junk mail. Begin to clean your desk. Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit. Make a keep pile, a maybe pile, and a throw away pile. Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself. Take out the trash. It’s always the simple that produces the marvelous. Clean the bath with bleach. Ideas shape the course of history. Walk the dog. Noble deeds that are concealed are most esteemed. Weed. When deeds speak, words are nothing. Separate the whites and colors. Start a load of laundry.
Rosie had been living in a spacious storage closet in an abandoned warehouse in the crumbling industrial zone of the city for two weeks before she discovered that she was not the only tenant. Odd hints (suggestions) had appeared earlier though she had only covertly taken notice. Some evenings when she returned her bedding, a loose mound of blankets and a raggedy body pillow, seemed slightly less jostled then she had remembered leaving them in the morning, and, who had stacked her books?
Perhaps it was an illusion, but the difficulty of her entrance ritual made her feel safe, as if the passage she had discovered could protect her. To her it was an escape from the world. A keyhole for her to worm through all at once. First, to get into a side alley she would slip her small frame through a small hole in the lower left of an outside fence. Then she would zig-zag through shipping pallets and husks of rusted metal of assorted shapes, sizes and forgotten function. Next there was the first door, impenetrable, then further down a second on loose hinges that could be yanked open and shut. From there she crossed through a dilapidated storage room filled for hundreds of meters with empty industrial shipping shelves designed for fork lifts and whole sale orders. Halfway down that corridor the shelves broke and Rosie could walk through a large door way that entered into the main floor of the warehouse. It was a vast intimidating space and she had not yet mustered the courage to cross straight across. Instead she would slink along the west wall to the metal stair case and up to a small office, which she claimed as home; a nest above a barren field.
In the day a flash of pigeon wings would echo and amplify, filling the factory with the sound of chaotic ruffling.