The Timepiece

by Robin Slick

“Hello. Ariel. Listen, this isn’t a social call so excuse me if I don’t ask how you are doing. You took Howard’s watch, “ Carolyn says.

“What?”

“It’s a Rolex, babe. Not some fucking Barbie outfit.”

“Like I could I possibly get that off his wrist with the safety clasps they have.”

“Ahem.”

“What, you think I’ve never seen a Rolex?”

“Oh, I think you’ve got one on your wrist right now. The one that belongs to Howard.”

“Why would I want an ugly, ostentatious symbol of corporate America?”

“Don’t pull that crap with me, Ariel. You’ve always wanted everything I have. Don’t make me bring up the past.”

“You already have and I’ve spent twenty years apologizing. Look, I don’t know what Howard told you, but I do not have your husband’s watch.”

“Howard said he ran into you at Parc. You kept admiring his Rolex and insisted he give it to you. Obviously, he refused, but being the maniacal kleptomaniac you are, somehow you prevailed.”

Untrue. What Ariel does not understand is why he would tell her anything.

She’d spent that day at her studio, recording a local band that was gloriously talented but had no chance in hell of success. Ariel felt guilty taking their money but they were young with hopes and dreams and who was she to tell them the music business was dead for all but a select few? She was hungry and Parc had a good Happy Hour with free appetizers. So she was there for food when she bumped into a very drunk Howard, who mortified her by attempting to lure her to a hotel. When she resisted, he dangled his Rolex as bait. And then he tried to kiss her. She excused herself to go to the ladies’ room and fled.

Growing up, their mothers were best friends. Ariel’s family was poor and artsy and lived in a cramped downtown apartment. Carolyn’s family were wealthy suburbanites whom they visited every weekend.

Carolyn had the entire Barbie doll collection—every outfit ever made with matching shoes and handbags. Ariel had the dollar store imitation and no accessories.

One day, when Carolyn wasn’t looking, Ariel slipped a pair of tiny orange high heels into the pocket of her overalls. Surely Carolyn would never miss them.

She didn’t. So the next time, Ariel stole an entire outfit.

She waited all week for the repercussions but when nothing happened, she crossed the line and helped herself to Barbie’s wedding dress. She’d been coveting it for months, silently lamenting how Carolyn kept it in a crumbled mess in her FAO Schwartz carrier.

Ariel would hang it on a miniature plastic hanger (also courtesy of Carolyn) and give it the loving respect it deserved.

But finally, her luck ran out. Ariel got two weeks punishment and the lecture from hell. To this day, the memory haunts her. Unfortunately, her relationship with Carolyn painfully lingers on because of their mothers’ continued closeness.

Ariel wore a leather jacket that night at Parc. Just for the hell of it, she reaches into the pocket. Holy fuck, Howard’s Rolex. He was so wasted; he tried to force the issue.

Ah, now she gets it. He’s in big trouble with his wife for losing his watch and counting on the theory that we are forever defined by our pasts.

He is right, but he is also wrong.

Ariel turns the Rolex over in her hand, thinking of the kids she recorded.

“I’m sorry, Carolyn. I don’t have it. Please give Howard my condolences.”

She hangs up the phone and smiles.

Robin Slick is a music obsessed writer and Best American Short Story Award nominee who lives physically in downtown Philadelphia and vicariously through her rock star kids. She hopes you’ll buy her novels at an independent bookstore unless you have a Kindle, in which case she will defer to Amazon where she also maintains an author’s page. See www.robinslick.com for further details and some seriously cool photos and video.

What is it about flash fiction that first attracted your attention and interest? I was first attracted to flash fiction because it is a wicked challenge and what artist doesn’t love that? Every single word matters because you need to make a powerful impact without relying on a lot of adjectives and adverbs. It is important to me, at least, to walk away from reading a flash with a strong sense of a real story with a beginning, middle, and end, no matter how abstract. I honestly feel that the more flash I write, the better my novels are because my internal editor has been taught to chop away. Food analogy: Flashes are like awesome tapas. Most of the time, you’d rather have those tasty small plates than the actual entree.

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