A bit of flash fiction for Chuck Wendig‘s challenge Realism Bot . I chose “A woman finds a pair of spectacles which allow her to see every library on earth.” 1500 words. And we are back in Seaside Village.
“Gwen, Gwen, wait up.” He yells from the corner.
“Crap,” I say, and walk a little faster, it’s sprinkling and looks like a downpour any minute. I slide under the awning at the Deli. Sarah is over at Fanny’s with Paul. She waves. I wave back. She’s expecting me.
“Geese Gwen, didn’t you hear me?” He says, out of breath from jogging.
“Hey Quentin, sorry didn’t want to get wet.”
“Since when?” He says and wiggles his eyebrows like Magnum P.I. I don’t like this side of him. It’s like he forgets who he is talking to. I am not that big bottom bimbo.
“What’s up?” I say impatiently.
“Just haven’t seen you in a while. I leave messages. Is your answering machine broke again?”
“Want to get a burrito?” He says.
“I’m meeting Sarah.”
“Oh, how about later? Picnic?” He says.
“It’s going to rain all day.”
“Picnic at the cove.” He says, which doesn’t involve a picnic at all. He does a half eyebrow wiggle.
I frown. God knows what cooties live in that van now. I wouldn’t get in it if he turned it completely inside out and scrubbed it twenty separate times, with bleach. He takes my hand. I want to wrench it out and slap him, and I want to dance in the rain with him and kiss him under the pier. It’s that messed up.
“Some other time, gotta go.” I say. I pull my hand out quickly and cross the street without looking back. I see his reflection in the window at Fanny’s. Stunned disbelief. I don’t want to feel what he is feeling anymore. He used to be my safe space.
“Move back to town.” He says.
I yank the door open, the sleigh bells from Christmas clatter against the glass. It’s cozy inside, warm and inviting as I would imagine a Grandma’s kitchen to be. Paul gets up and holds the chair out for me.
“Hot chocolate?” He says. I nod. “Donut?” I nod again but I’m thinking, yeah about a dozen of them please.
“How’ve you been?” Sarah says.
“Fine,” I say. Like a train wreck, I don’t say it out loud but I know she can tell.
“How’s the little guy?” I say. I sound hollow. He’s tucked into his big Mama purse bag under a fuzzy blanket, I can barely see his nose. She is all smiles in love, with the puppy, with Paul, with life. I want to be in love with life.
“He’s a little stinker,” she says. “Leave him alone for a minute and he’s eating my shoes and ordering pizzas.” We chuckle politely.
“How are you really?” She says.
Tears well up, there’s no stopping them. I wipe them away with my sleeve. I can’t even say, words float around my head but none of them are adequate. Paul brings my hot chocolate and a platter of glazed donuts. I want to laugh that he read my mind, I nod thanks. He leaves so I can fumble with words.
Quentin is standing in the rain across the street watching me. She looks at him. She looks at me. She knows. It’s simple really, girl loves boy since kindergarten, boy likes girl as sidekick with benefits. Still I try with words, like exorcism, where can I buy an exorcism, or hire a surgeon to cut this raging desire and pain from my heart. I sound crazy, even to me, sound as crazy as Mom locked up right now for being so crazy. I’m not supposed to say crazy but there’s no other word that fits as tight.
“I found these yesterday at the beach,” I say. It’s the real reason I’m here. I lay the glasses on the table, small, round, antique gold rim glasses, the kind Santa might wear, or John Lennon, or the Time Traveling librarian I dreamed about last night.
“I don’t think they belong to anyone in town,” she says.
“Here’s the thing,” I say, leaning forward, “I looked through them.” I did. She is waiting.
“You can see into another world.” I say.
Yes, you can. Poker face. Crickets.
“There is a library inside of them.” I say.
I amuse myself with craziness to squash the heartache of jealousy of a fat butt girl and the boy I love, and the Mom who’s never been like a Mom anyone would want, not really a Mom at all. Is mental instability inherited? Nature? Nurture? A gift from Mommy dearest? We must both be thinking it.
“A big library.” I say.
She is patient, calm, looks for the Charles Manson glaze in my eyes that has Mom locked up. It isn’t there. I don’t think it is. She picks up the glasses, examines them, slips them on and looks out to the rain. Jaw drops. Mouth opens.
“Oh my God,” She says. I’m probably dreaming this, but she takes them off, puts them back on. “Oh my God.” She says again. “How the..”
I pinch my arm. I feel the table, it is smooth and cold. I did that when I was little to make sure I wasn’t still in bed dreaming, but really in the bathroom. Pretty sure I’m not dreaming, been so damn close to hallucinating lately though. I haven’t slept in so long. That’s what happens to her. She doesn’t sleep. Can you go years without sleep?
“I don’t understand,” she says when she can find words. She folds the arms carefully, pushes them toward the donuts, cartoon like.
“But you see it, right?” I say. She nods, dumbfounded. “This is the crap I heard all my life. She lost her way home and got stuck here with us kids. Stuck.”
“I know.” She says sadly.
“No, I’m not sad for me, well yeah I am, but I’m sad for her. She must be some kind of time traveler and these glasses are her vehicle. I’m sure they’re hers and she lost them a long time ago, before she had us kids.” Boy I sound crazy as a loon, but this is true. I can feel it in my bones. I was meant to find them so she could go home. I am not that benevolent, not one bit. I want her to go, far away to other exciting worlds and never, ever, come back here.
“Gwen, come back into town. You can stay in my guest cottage.”
“Am I sounding crazy?” I whisper.
She shakes her head no, a real no, not a stalling until I come to my senses kind of a no, or I’m scaring the hell out of her kind of a no. There is no one else I would trust with this information.
“But what if this is it, the solution? What if she puts these on and poof she’s gone from here and back home where she belongs?” What if I could sleep without worrying that I might wake up being smothered by a pillow.
“Home to her seven sons?” She says.
I frown, it’s not that time of year, but it was last fall when she went too far. When she slipped up and put the knife to my neck in front of people. When she blew past caution and shocked the crap out of half the town at Oktoberfest. When Sarah talked her down and the Sherriff grabbed her from behind. When they took her away for observation and are still observing her. I shake that bad scene from my head and see Quentin right outside the window. I slap the glass with both hands, slap it hard, twice.
“Go home.” I yell, then turn my back to him. “Yes, to her goddamned seven sons if that’s what she wants. I’ve got to get these glasses to her.”
“They wouldn’t let you in to see her.”
“I know, I don’t want to see her,” like ever again. “I just want to return her glasses.”
“What if they aren’t hers?”
“Then she is out of confinement and off to the big libraries all across time. It’s nothing but a win-win.” Then I can sleep, and finally feel safe in my own home.
“Okay, if I get these glasses to her will you come into town, stay awhile in my guest house?”
“Yes,” I say without hesitation, surprising myself. Yes, I can leave that big monster of a house behind, the house that was supposed to be a refuge for me and never was.
“Stay tonight, and I’ll take you out there tomorrow morning to pack some things.” She says, “and I’ll get the glasses to her.”
“Today? Would you do it today?” I say. “Please?”
“Of course. Let’s grab some lunch, get you set up in the guest house, then I’ll run them out to Misty Glen. I have a friend who is a nurse there. She’ll take them in to her.”
“Thank you, Sarah.” Lightning cracks above us and thunder answers. The gods applaud, as Mom would say.