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For What It’s Worth

by S.E. Daniels

 

My legs bake. My feet glow red. I can’t bring myself to get up to adjust the umbrella. My book lies open on my lap like a shield.

“Here you go. Just what the doctor ordered.” He hands me the drink, condensation beading on the glass. It soaks my hand and runs down my arm. My toes start to smolder.

My mouth curls at the corners, but I don’t meet his eyes. It’s the best I can offer him. I slurp a mouthful of rum, mint, and lime. It electrifies my tastebuds and frees my vocal cords.

“This was a great idea,” I tell the sea as I set the drink on the table between us, its presence a waypost, an emblem of our loss.

He pats my hand before I can withdraw it, then leans back in his lounger.

“It’s been a tough year. There’s nothing more valuable than a little self-care, right?” His words dance away on the breeze. The glaring heat reaches my knees. My toes blacken and turn to coal. He drops his hat over his face and sighs.

“This is the life.”

I watch the Atlantic caress the white sand beach and wonder what it’s worth. One night in our room is the price of a stroller. Dinner is the equivalent of a car seat. Every drink is a pink ruffled dress, a pair of tiny shoes.

He lies beside me, a picture of repose, as I am consumed. I could save myself or reach out to him. Instead, I swelter and burn and turn to ash hoping to blow away.

 

S.E. Daniels is a veteran of the video game industry, and an author and illustrator living in MidCoast Maine. Her stories have appeared in various literary journals and in app stores around the world.

 

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This piece took first place in its group in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction 2022 competition. The prompts drove me to sunlight and loss, and I instantly thought of Hemingway. “For What It’s Worth” is an homage to his infamous six-word story, blown out, and told from a feminine perspective.

News

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Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

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