A Crowd

by Sherrie Flick

1. Aunt Esther

Aunt Esther said Aunt Adelaide had always got out of chores when they were kids because mother said she was ailing and frail. Aunt Esther had the arthritis so bad, she said, she didn’t think she could make the sugar cookies or the hard candy or the cooked sweet corn anymore.

Aunt Esther had moved down the lane years before with Uncle Pete and the kitten she said she didn’t want but fed every morning anyway.

Aunt Esther’s clear blue eyes—you could tell—so pure. The early morning, at the sink—you could tell—she was beautiful once—or happier.

Aunt Esther had secrets.

She’d always wanted silk sheets, for instance. She’d thought about moving to town more than once, opening a little shop where she’d sell tea and nod modestly after compliments. She imagined living alone sometimes, too—not so much widowed but alone, on her own in the world—and understanding it.

 

2. Hilary

Abandoned shoes head-to-toe and cobwebs and stale saltines wrapped in plastic. Old photographs and books and shiny paperclips scattered in the top desk drawer. And the teetering chair that was once leather. A tartan blanket. A typewriter—covered like a birdcage—prim.

The hanging folders and a lamp. The blower from the heater that never worked right. The empty mug, the paper cup, the postcard, the note, the Post-Its. The baseball hat slung on the coat tree—red, white, and blue.

 

3. Frankie

Not particularly smart or substantially good looking, Frankie kept to the corners. He browsed the produce at the local grocer, was disappointed with the pears and then the peaches.

He never saw it coming—it being happiness, it being disappointment. It being Suzy with her rose-scented hair and Dansko clogs.

But then, it was too late. Frankie was a check-out girl’s memory, an old man with a cane.

 

4. Lulu

Lulu had lived in the first floor apartment forever. But she wouldn’t stand for the new rent increase and stormed out, leaving behind walls shellacked with secondhand smoke, orange cotton curtains that disintegrated in the wash, and the little perennial garden by the front door. She didn’t understand how much she would hate the new tenants until she returned to visit and saw the young woman picking her flowers.

Sherrie Flick is the author of the flash fiction chapbook I CALL THIS FLIRTING, the novel RECONSIDERING HAPPINESS, and the forthcoming short story collection WHISKEY, ETC. (Queen’s Ferry Press, 2016). She lives in Pittsburgh.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “A Crowd”?

    I’ve been writing a series of super short stories on 3×5 Post-It notes for about 7 years now. In some ways they have been a way of distracting myself from larger projects. I’ve published some of them by themselves–just a tiny story of about 75 words, but then I realized that most of them were tiny portraits of characters; I realized I was creating a kind of flash fiction town as it were and decided to see how they would work grouped together. I think this way they have a bit complexity–playing off each other and interacting in surprising ways. “A Crowd” is just a section of a larger crowd. The possibilities for these now seem endless.
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