In last Last week's blog, I explained to you my defense for not tampering with the flash fiction short story “The Man on the Porch”. I felt it told the entire story as it stood—a horror story, in which the characters need not be “liked”. A story of 468 words.
Here is the counterpart...
“Two Women on the Porch”
Gals confide in each other. Even if they are new friends. Even if they are strangers in the market and will not likely see each other again. That’s the nature of gals. Maybe men are just the opposite: they don’t confide; I don’t know. Take my girlfriend Ada. I’m speaking about a girlfriend of 45 years. She’s a widow now. But since her wedding to her second husband—I was one of her bridesmaids—she has confided in me about her first love, Emmet. She and Emmet had been married for three years. Then he abruptly left her, and she never understood the reason. It drove her crazy. Unrequited love? Vanity? Whatever it was, to this day, we two women would sit on my porch and I’d listen to her go over and over it, driving her crazy.
Let me put it this way. When Ada speaks about Emmet, she almost embarrasses me. “He was the most handsome man I have ever seen. He had all the aces: brilliance, wit, and charm. He would look directly into my eyes when he instructed me how to behave with others, and his eyes smiled and completely swallowed me up.” She raved about how he improved her looks, her personality, her manners. On and on she raved, every week at least once a week, for 45 years.
One day as the two of us were sitting on the porch, I asked her,
“Would you return to him, if you could?”
“Why did he leave me?”
I thought she would. So recently, I looked him up on Facebook. I found him living in the same retirement city I live in. Such luck. I telephoned him and invited him out for tea or coffee or a drink. He chose tea.
I had never met him, but when he walked into the restaurant, I knew him. He was exceptionally handsome, like those male models in Gentlemen’s Quarterly, but older. Why doesn’t the magazine feature older men? I suppose older men usually don’t look that uncommonly good. Most older men make use of their tired wardrobes for the rest of their lives. Some take to wearing Groucho berets. But this man, perpetually tanned I guess, was an eyeful who kept up with fashion. Slim, erect, a full crop of hair. Ada should not see him. Or better yet, he should not see her. She blended in with the rest of us older gals when we begin to look alike and dress colorfully to help us get started in the morning.
He laughed and his teeth shone white and even. “I actually thought that Ada might be with you.”
“She has no idea about this meeting. But I’d like to tell her about it if I may.”“Certainly. Why not?”
“One reason is that you may reveal things to me that would hurt her.”
“Whether you ever remarried. Did you?”
“That’s of no consequence because Ada did.”
“How did you know?”
“She sent me a wedding invitation.”
“Really? So why didn’t you attend?”
“No reason to attend.”
“Weren’t you curious about your replacement?”
“No. I was happy for him. I wished him sufficient energy to take her on.”
I laughed. “Yes, I know what you mean.“
“How did you locate me, Sally?”
“I read your Facebook bio that mentioned you had become an attorney. I looked you up in a law source. Your becoming an attorney was achieved after you parted from Ada. Did you think she held you back?”
“Not intentionally. You see, she was aggressive and bombastic and needed a lot of toning down.”
“And you took on that job?”
“I did. I was trying to 'improve' Ada. The task became exhausting because she never changed. She needed so much attention. She was demanding, and everything had to be her way. It became too much for me. One day, I simply quit on her. I got out.”
“I know what you’re talking about,” I said.
“Don’t get me wrong. I was initially drawn to Ada, her vitality, energy, her humor. That is, until I caught on to the price.”
I was silent.
“Has she calmed down with the years?“
I remained silent.
“I have my answer,” he said.
“So you married someone else. Did you find the perfect girl?”
“I found a calm, quiet girl. And I lived happily ever after. Until she died.”
“I’m sorry to hear that she died.”
“We didn’t have children, but we had a dog. I had my law practice. Then I retired.”
“But did you have a full life with her? Travelling, etc.?”
“She did not want to travel. Nor did I. We came out to Palm Springs for vacations, lounged around the pool, tanned well, bought clothes, and met friends at dinner. We were comfortable. ”
“So what did you do with all the money you earned as an attorney?”
“I wasn’t very successful. I made a living for us, and we were satisfied.”
When Ada and I had lunch on the porch, I told her about my meeting with Emmet. “He is a dull man. You imagined him as you wanted him. He was never that man.”
Edith Howard was a voracious reader. She is deceased now. I once asked her, “When you approach a novel in a bookstore, what makes you decide on purchasing it?”
She answered, “I open to the middle of the book, leaf through it to see how much is in dialog. If there is a lot of dialog, I buy.
I think of you, Edith, because alongside all of my narrative writing, I incorporate lots of dialog. It is in the scenes with dialog that the great “beats” sound mightily. You were a good reader.