Welcome to my short story page, and thank you for reading my work! Please scroll down to see both short stories.
The following short story was published in edition 147 of The Antigonish Review:
At the Time of His Death
by Jenny Scott
Anton was fond of quoting Winston Churchill, who, on being told he would live twenty years longer if he did not drink, smoke, or eat so much, said, “It would only seem twenty years longer.”
Whenever Anton would say this, lifting his stein of beer, or lighting another cigarette, Marta would reply with the old Marx Brother’s line, “He looks like a fool and talks like a fool, but don’t let him deceive you — he is a fool.”
So that was the first thing she thought of upon waking next to Anton and finding him dead.
It was such a jolt, but she’d known it right off. She knew he was dead before she even turned to look at him. She could feel an absence where there had always been a presence. And when she did finally roll over into the further depths of the old feather bed, and touched his static, ashen face, she knew that she’d been right.
Even so, she couldn’t really believe it, and she wondered briefly if life ever really believed in death. She knew that Anton had become quieter lately, that he saw the doctor more often, that he had assumed the betrayed look of the elderly, but she never expected to wake and find him dead next to her.
Marta knew she was supposed to do something now, to take some sort of action, but she wasn’t sure just what that was. She didn’t know if she should call the doctor, the coroner, or one of her children. She knew there would be a vast sadness and that it would be especially hers, but she didn’t feel it yet. He had been her only love.
She sat up, moved to her edge of the bed, and in the cool, shade-darkened room she felt with her feet for her slippers. She sat there a moment and was thrown back to the time when Anton proposed.
They were up North, on a boat on a sun-sparkling lake. It was the first time she’d ever been on a boat. The air was so fresh and clean-smelling. She was busy tracing the tips of the shore’s crowded pine trees with her eyes when Anton said he loved her. Would she marry him?
She said yes. She said she loved him too, but she wasn’t really sure. She was so young. His arms while they rowed made an impressive show of muscles. His blue-green eyes matched the lake. There were ducks gliding all around with ducklings following. There was that air. She loved something. That was certain.
They went on to fill their small house with nine children. Nine children all still alive, and now grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. She could not have hoped for more from life, and yet she did.
She walked slowly into the kitchen and turned on the coffee maker, as she did every morning. Anton had set it up the night before, had ground the beans and measured the water, as usual. All she had to do was flip the switch. She sat at the big, empty maple table and listened to the coffee maker spit and bubble.
She had hoped for more. She had always been selfish for life. She’d had children in all the rooms, plants fighting for light in most of the windows. She’d tripped over dogs and boxes of kittens while she hurried around with a baby on her hip. There was always a baby on her hip. And then on day there wasn’t. She had wanted it to go on and on.
She saw one day years ago, when Anton, all dusty with construction work, came in the back door with a bag of oranges for the children, that she did love him. Specifically him. He looked so tired. So average. She thought her heart might be damaged by such love, it was so painful.
She poured her mug of coffee, held it up to her and let the steam curl around her face. She walked back into the bedroom, careful not to spill. She stood over him, and felt not sadness at all, but only a dim, growing anger.
“Traitor,” she wanted to tell him. “It wasn’t enough,” she wanted to say. But she didn’t know how she, Marta, who had created all those people, could ever again create something as tricky as sound, as thick as words.
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The following short story was published in Arts Beat Magazine:
Any Dark Day
by Jenny Scott
Amy lives in a brown world. She resides in a small brown-brick bungalow, drives an old brown yacht of a Buick, wears only brown nail polish, and washes down her shaved beef and pumpernickel sandwiches with dark brown coffee.
Presently, she is working on a hunk of you-know-what-color meatloaf. She’s in a restaurant walled in smooth brown panels. She doesn’t choreograph all the brownness, it just happens.
She is out for the day. It’s her one day off from the agency. She is eating a big lunch because she needs the sustenance. Not only does she have to pick out new shoes for her too-small feet (six 4 1/2, not child, not woman), but her boyfriend, Chuck, broke up with her last night. In addition to those hardships, her mother called two hours ago to inform Amy that she is moving in with her. It was not a question.
“I can’t make it on my own anymore. Every morning I’m woke earlier and earlier by birds,” said Mom, Eva, crazy woman.
“Yeah, well, there are birds where I live too, Mom.” Sparrows, wrens, thrushes. Lots of brown birds.
“Well, they can’t be as noisy as the birds here.”
“You only live two miles away, Mom. I’m pretty sure we’re in the same bird zone.”
“Amy. Why are you going on and on about birds. Don’t you want me?”
A few grim, hopeless moments later, after Amy hangs up with her mother, she switches her cell phone all the way off. Every time, before the phone goes off, little messages first flash up on the tiny screen that say, “Be Safe. Be Courteous.” Amy feels both fortunate and fearful in the knowledge that she has such a caring phone.
Eva. Roommate. This means ten pounds for sure. It means fresh, hot, brown cakes, brownies and muffins coming out of the oven fast as codswallop from a politician’s mouth. Eva is a baker and her medium is chocolate. Amy was concerned about winning Chuck back before she knew about the coming extra ten pounds. Now she feels desperate to get him back soon, while she still has a waist.
There are reasons she feels she still has a chance with him. At one point, he had been insanely in love with her. Also, he has a slight speech impediment. Really, he is no great gift to womenkind. He’s quite overweight. He has spiky little hair that runs in all different directions as it it’s scared to death of the dry, flaking skin on top of his head.
Yet, Chuck is oddly sure of himself and so possesses a strange handsomeness out of nowhere.
Her waiter, Greg, comes to her now.
“Is there anything else I can get for you?” He almost sings. He is so pleasant, so kind, so painfully enthusiastic. It’s as if there were truly nothing he wouldn’t procure for her: a loan, a new sofa, a child. Amy’s noticed that all the waiters and waitresses at all the trendy restaurants are nothing if not “nice.” She assumes it’s not so much predisposition as much as prerequisite. These days, you have to hold onto your job no matter what it takes.
She smiles at Greg, but what she’d really like to do is mash his eyebrow with her spoon.
Outside of the shoe store, she switches on her phone and calls Chuck.
“Yello,” he answers. This should be reason enough not to pursue him, but Amy is stubborn, smitten.
“Hi, it’s me.”
“You know who. I was wondering if you’d had a chance to reconsider? Whether you’ve seen the error of your ways? Whether it cuts like a knife cause I’m out of your life?”
She looks down at her little brown shoes waiting for him to say anything. When he says nothing she says, “Please.”
“Amy, I can’t. There’s someone else.”
This information does not hit her like a dirty brown snowball in the face. She’d had a feeling for a while. It was her fault, maybe. She had not been madly in love with Chuck when she had the chance. She’d thought herself a little above him. It wasn’t his fault that, now that he’d dumped her, her heart, like the Grinch’s grew three sizes this day.
She lets him off the phone as gently as possible, then switches her phone off for good.
“Be Safe! Be Courteous!”
When she opens the door to the shoe store, a bell tinkles zealously as if it’s Christmas Eve in some English village. A salesman from behind the desk spots her and beings his financed servitude by hurrying toward her like a little bald wind-up toy.
“Welcome. How can I help you?” He asks earnestly, lovingly. “Is there anything special you’re looking for?”
Amy exhales long and forcefully. Then she takes the bald man’s head in her hands and kisses both sides of his startled face like an Italian grandfather, like a holy woman, like an ambassador of kindness from the sun and beach-filled land of Glass-Half-Full. Like someone who is giving up taking.
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