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Edgar Degas

A Crack in the Foundation

Flash Fiction by Ellen Meister

At midnight, she stands in the basement, pushing the iron back and forth over his favorite dress shirt. He needs it for a meeting in the morning and she likes when he looks crisp.

A crack forms in the concrete wall before her, and she stares, thinking she’s imagining things. But no, there it is, a zigzag out of nowhere, renting the wall, radiating a soft glow from the other side. She somehow knows that beyond is another future in which her husband hadn’t, just hours earlier, offered a blubbering confession about his transgression, pleading for forgiveness.

The light beyond the fissure changes from white to yellow to pink. She could walk through it, she thinks, and this life would disappear. She noses the iron between buttons and imagines the threads disintegrating, then the bone buttons vanishing. Imagines it all as decomposing molecules while she escapes into a reality where she didn’t say yes, but snapped the ring box closed and pushed it back to him, holding out for someone she could love a little less.

She sprays his collar with starch and glides the hot iron over it, inhaling the sweet steam. The wet smell lingers in front of her nose and mouth like puppy breath.

She hears his footsteps overhead. He’s out of bed, taking something from the refrigerator. She aches to be close to him, to run her hand up his back. She stands the hot iron on its bottom and listens. But his steps retreat, back to the certainty of their bed.

She hangers the shirt, and turns off the iron, careful to pull the cord out of the socket. Then she steps through the crack in the basement wall, her nightgown a flash of white before she disappears.

§ § §

Ellen Meister's short work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous print and online journals, including Nassau Review, Salome, Hobart, 3am, Flashquake, edifice WRECKED, Dicey Brown, Pindeldyboz, Fiction Warehouse, Word Riot and SmokeLong Quarterly, where she is now an editor. Her first novel will be published by Morrow/Avon in early 2006.

Reprinted from Ink Pot #6; available now

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