Week #22 – The brutality of friends

Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.

The theme is The brutality of friends.



The Food Chain by Lola Elvy

. .
Mind Games . by Michael Webb

I looked at him, watching him look around the room. He was relatively cute, all things considered- lanky, bearded, and generally out of sorts, he had an awkward charm that some girls found irresistible. I had pulled him out of bed, early on a Sunday- mooning for his absent fiancee, in Bordeaux doing research until the spring, he had taken to sleeping late and going to bed early, willing the months away. I begged him to join me, his fiancee’s best friend, for coffee and commiseration about her absence. I whined and complained until he showered and set himself at a sunsplashed table, tired blue eyes measuring the room.

He wasn’t reading or writing, just kind of staring. He watched the baristas share a private joke, giggling into the foaming milk. He watched a girl in the corner in cat’s eye glasses make notes from a Bolano novel. John Lennon music, enjoying another hipster rebirth, was playing in the background as I sipped, watching him observe the life that swirled around us.

I had decided he was going to sleep with me tonight- nothing permanent, just a bedpost notch, a way to prove I could, something to silently hold over her, something I would always know. A way to be someone’s secret, someone’s unconfessed betrayal, someone’s moment of guilty panic. He didn’t know that it was going to happen, as I smiled to myself, bringing my coffee to my lips. But I did.

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Transparency . by Susan Gibb

The late-day shadows stretch out like nymphs on the lawn, reveling naked and dark in the warm golden-green grass. In islands they float on the surface, shifting, reaching, drifting apart.

He sits in his chair reading. The umbrella is arced to slant its shade on the pages of the latest Grisham novel. His face too is bereft of the sun. I alone drink in its yellowness. I absorb it into my veins, the blood carrying it through my body like a waitress with a tray full of daiquiris sparkling in sugar-rimmed glasses. His drink is a masculine scotch on the rocks. Mine is a faceful of afternoon sun.

An awning of tension hovers above us, its clarity accenting the lean of his body, elbows grounded for takeoff. His chair is angled away from mine by just enough. Mine is boldly straight out to the yard.

“Are you still mad at me?”

He grunts, doesn’t look up. A finger flips over the page, ready to hold his place should this turn into an argument.

“I’m not mad at you,” he says. He looks out across the lawn, now spread with writhing shadows of maple and ash. “It’s Joe’s fault. Jesus, my best friend fucks my wife.” He snorts as if the air around us is thick, its transparency made of plastic-wrap. “I don’t blame you.”

Icy daiquiris flow like a hot river within me.

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Body to go . by Matt Potter

I’m squatting naked over the hand mirror, feet cold on the terrazzo floor, looking at my winking arsehole. It reminds me of her face: eyes sloe, nose tiffed, lips harrumphing. And the badge bobbing above her right breast: ‘Tiahna – your friendly trainee’.

I glop the paintbrush in the crab lotion and slather it on my hole, perineum, under my balls. I favour broad strokes – no pointless pointillism – but stab the cracks and folds precisely. The crab lotion tingles and burns, stinging all senses.

And I have my entire body to go! Arms, chest, stomach, underarms, back, pubic hair, legs, feet, toes.

Yes, I am that hairy. Yes, the crabs have taken over.


Tiahna – factory-fresh, rust-free, go-go-figured circa nineteen year-old Norwood Chemist junior – inched the Benzemul Application bottle from the top shelf.

“Do you sell paintbrushes too?” I asked.

She handed the bottle to me, nostrils glaring.

My head steamed. “I might be forty-nine but I can still get crabs!” I said. “Which you get from fucking.”

Distaste churned in her face.

“I’m infested with pubic lice,” I spat. “I need a lot of paintbrushes to apply this stuff. Although a dipping vat would be better, but I bet you don’t sell vats either.”

Tiahna shook her head, scanning and bagging the Benzemul bottle.


I unfold to a stand, forty-nine year-old knees cracking. Swapping to a broader brush, I slather my chest. Then stop.

A paint roller would work so much better. And I’m scratching to see Tiahna again.

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Comfort of Friends . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

She sat with me in the white bathroom, holding my hair while I upchucked in the once-pristine commode. When there was nothing left to hold, she rubbed small circles between my shoulder blades. At the wig shop, she held up a red bob.

“Spunky,” she said. “And sexy.”

She drove me to radiation, to acupuncture and support group. She brewed herbal concoctions that smelled of twigs and dirt. She brought casseroles and cookies, and later, applesauce and other soft sick-foods. She painted yellow happy faces on my toe nails, upside-down so my piggies smiled up at me during infusions.

After I survived the treatment, I weighed the possibility of reconstruction. She came with me for the fitting. I cried at the scars cratering my chest, mourning how my husband once caressed the soft fullness of my breasts, kissed my rosebud nipples. She squeezed my hand the way only a best friend could reassure.

“He loves all of you, not just your body parts.” She held up a C-cup mastectomy bra, a full size bigger than what I’d lost. “So let’s go, Dolly,” she said, and we both laughed.

Turns out she brought more than food for comfort. Now my husband begs me to take him back, but I don’t return his phone calls, or hers. Nights I climb the stairs to the empty bedroom, rubbing the stubble growing newly black on my head, the prosthesis stashed deep in his underwear drawer.

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Carboys and Engines . by Alex Lockwood

John clambered half-out the window, then Andy leant out the other side. Matt sat in the front, laughing, pulling on a beer. Their super plan was to shake hands over the car’s roof. I never thought of stopping until the police sirens.

“Step out of the car,” said the female officer.

She led me to their vehicle. I felt the emptiness and the sulphur of lamplight. It wasn’t quite morning. Spray from the road a scattered muddy arc. John and Andy slinked into the back seat, laughing. John put his head out the window, resting his elbows on the door.

“Did you think that was safe?” the female officer asked. She had green eyes. I looked down at her hands. She was holding a straw attached to a plastic bag, like a blood transfusion sac on a hook.

“No, officer.”

“She’s giving him a blow job,” John shouted. “I want a blowie.”

She looked back at John’s face, red from the beer and wind. “Good friends,” she said. She handed me the straw and sac. “Blow, please.”

I exhaled. The diode turned green.

“Is that good?” I asked.

“You’ve not been drinking?”

For once, no.

“You want to keep them under control,” she said. She looked at her colleague, and with a quiet signal they got back in their patrol and drove away.

I got back in the car. I turned round to the boys and smiled and without looking drove headfirst into the oncoming truck.

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Girlfriends . by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

—That was harsh, said Jen as the bathroom door slammed behind Melanie.

—Mel’s my best friend, not yours. She needed to know that shade of blue doesn’t go with olive skin.

—Viv, you said she looked like a whore.

—That’s how our friendship works. Remember eighth grade when she warned me about my muffin top?

—You passed out in PE from not eating.

—Whatever. We’re gonna be late for chemistry. Mel can find her own way there.

Melanie never made it to class. After twenty minutes, Mr. Schmidt asked if they’d seen her.

Jen denied it. Viv said she was probably with her boyfriend. Jen snickered. Melanie had only ever gone on one date, at Viv’s urging, to dispel rumors of lesbianism.

After another twenty minutes, they heard ambulance sirens.

—Some goth must’ve cut her wrists too deep, Jen stage-whispered. Half the class laughed.

Ten minutes later came an announcement: the period would end early for an emergency staff meeting. Viv took advantage of the break to smoke a cigarette behind the school. When Viv sat down in study hall, Jen leaned over and said she was right about the wrists. —The senior hall bathroom’s a fucking crime scene.

Ms. Lee came in five minutes late with red eyes. Jen had been wrong. It wasn’t a goth.

Viv, sobbing, ran out of the room.

—So they really were dykes, whispered Jen, quietly so that only Viv’s boyfriend could hear.

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Abandon . by Nicolette Wong

‘I think you would have been quite beautiful when you were young.’

Your words are a blue haze rocking into the night at a sidewalk restaurant. I look over your shoulder for room to laugh. You, three years my junior, stealing glances at bare legs brushing past and beer in your glass, a moving reflection of your hopes: career, jokes, in a world where life means overlooking others from a heightened plane of safety.

At my smile you recoil for a moment before opening up to the embrace that will elude me forever. We are supposed to be friends, for you have never met someone whose soul mirrors yours and who already lives at the other side of the world. I sit before you and crack a peanut.

‘You haven’t met too many people in your life,’ I say.

‘That has nothing to do with it.’

Your phone rings. Requests. Reproach. Mistakes scorching a roll of film, unfolding in a non-existent space. Another barrier to cross while you dream yourself into being a man. Silence cracks across the table, lengthening the time we spend with each other in smirk and qualms. Nothing reigns besides your fear of failure. You shake your head; I put two fingers to my lips.

‘Say something to distract me,’ you ask.

‘It won’t be any different from what you’d say to yourself, or some things you don’t put into words.’

‘You, a person of many words,’ you say. ‘Shall we dance, then?’

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Pre-Dinner Conversation . by Beate Sigriddaughter

“Why do you hang with Ned?” Solveig had asked her husband Alan once.

“Because he’s my friend.”

Now Ned stood in their living room, running his finger, as though absent-minded, across the wooden book shelf. “Do you think you’re doing the right thing?”

“Of course.” She willed herself to not stare at the shiny trail his finger left in the dust. “The scholarship pays for everything.”

“It’s bigger than Alan’s, I hear.”

“Well, it’s California versus Minnesota. Things cost more out there.”

“Aren’t you afraid of hurting Alan by competing with him and doing better?” Ned asked.

Solveig hugged herself. “I’m not competing. I’m merely good at what I do. Not better.”

“Graduating eighth in your class to his eleventh?”

Solveig shot a glance at Alan who was busy uncorking wine. He had told Ned that?

“Obviously made an impression,” Ned said. His eyes were slits for a moment.

“Well, Ned, Alan doesn’t want me to sit around knitting and watching TV or reading romances and mysteries.”

A cockroach began a solitary march across the dinner table already set. Solveig felt like laughing, throwing up, or both. House-keeper par excellence.

“How do you know?” Ned asked.

Three pairs of eyes followed the cockroach to the edge of the table where it disappeared. For the first time Solveig felt a stir of hatred for her husband who said nothing, not even in justification of the cockroach.

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Keep it Secret . by Annette Rohde

He asked if I wanted to try some but I wasn’t sure.

He said it would be okay, so I took a drag and it hurt my throat so much that I thought I was going to cough my lungs right out. So then he said I could try it without it making me cough.

He blew the smoke into my mouth.

I really liked him putting his lips on mine, you know, I sort of pretended that he was kissing me.

We chatted for a bit and I started to feel really good, you know, relaxed, so I asked for another one. This time when he blew it into my mouth we started really kissing.

We kissed for so long. I felt good. Then he started touching me. It felt nice.

He was hot and breathless. While he was kissing me he started to press against me. He said he would be gentle.

Afterwards he said how wonderful and how beautiful I was but we should keep it a secret because my friends might call me names. Then said we should get back to the party.

Later, when I was in bed and the last of the guests were leaving, I heard him say to dad, “You have a beautiful daughter. You’ll be fighting off the boys calling for her when she gets older”.

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evolution . by Al McDermid

I dearly want to reject Darwin

the notion that
fragile egotistical
self-absorbed vipers
are evolved

human superiority-
larger brains
aid deception
opposable thumbs
are best
for gripping daggers

that we are
little more than
clever monsters
seeped in contempt
niggardly with praise
as if
it cost something

the evolution
of black-hearted
false friends that
piss on my shadow while
smiling in my face

and despite
overwhelming evidence
that I should
wreak unholy havoc
this too I

I turn away
trusting instead
‘the better angels
of our nature’*
because to do so
is to evolve

*Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural, March 4th, 1861

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Black Magic . by Len Kuntz

My neighbor had a potato-shaped head and saggy skin beneath his eyes, showing way too much white. Rashes of angry acne rimmed his jaw and forehead. If you saw him in the dark you’d probably get shivers, but in daylight he was just ugly and odd.

I watched his father turn the water hose on him once. Another time, his dad tossed stones at him because he wasn’t weeding the garden fast enough.

At school it was just as bad, the taunting and bullying. A pack of juniors jabbed and kicked and pushed.

One day I was bored, walking in the woods behind our two houses, when I ran into him. He said he knew a cool place, perched high above a cliff.

It made me dizzy, we were up so high.

He had a rabbit foot on a chain and asked if I believed in magic. He said he wanted to hypnotize me.

I let him. I pretended to be unconscious. When he snapped his fingers, I asked what had happened.

“Who’s your best friend?” he asked.

I didn’t hesitate. “You are.”

He flashed a crazy grin, lips dripping milky saliva.

I said, “Nah, just kidding.”

He looked stunned.

When I turned to go, he grabbed my arm. I hardly remember jerking.

I only see him falling now, in daydreams and nightmares. But I always tell myself it was an accident, his fault as much as mine, that he wouldn’t have had much of a life anyway.

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The Announcement . by Stephen Hastings-King

Her engagement announcement arrived this morning. He retells the story so that it came like a calling card placed on an elephant foot umbrella stand in his hallway. De gustibus non est disputandum.

Their stories were once intertwined.
Then she told him he was not practical.
He stopped listening.
If things were different, she said.
He thought: How strange this moment of nothing to say.
Their stories once intertwined became parallel

With the announcement arrived an invitation to a party. It was not an engagement party but rather another small-town event the story of which her celebration would retell. He decides not to go. De gustibus non est disputandum.

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Mafia Girlfriend . by Matthew A. Hamilton

“They found my dad,” she said. “Near the swamp.”

“So,” he said, throwing a rock out to sea.

“Listen to me,” she said. “Please.”

He looked at her, no expression.

“It doesn’t look good,” she continued. “I mean, you did this, right?”

“Come closer,” he said, ignoring her question. “Tilt your head this way. Yea, that’s it.” The right side of her face was swollen. Black and blue and pink swirled around her puffy cheek. A thin line of dried blood covered the crack on her bottom lip.

“Sarah, you listen to me. It needed to be done. He would have eventually killed you. He can’t hurt you ever again. It’s over.”

“Yea, over, I know. They’re looking for you and when they find you—”

“They’re not going to find me.”

“Dad isn’t— wasn’t,” she corrected herself, “a bad man”.

“Wasn’t a bad man?” he said. “He was a mafia boss for Chrissakes.”

“I made a mistake, so he hit me.”

“Why are you defending him?” he said. He’s the one that made a mistake.”

“Dad didn’t make mistakes.”

“He did with me.”

“He trusted you.”

“His mistake.”

I trusted you,” she said. She leaned in and kissed him. Their tongues met in a swarm of obsession and spit. She squeezed the trigger. Robert’s eyes went wide with fear and pain.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

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Burn Baby Burn . by Steven M. Stucko

As I rounded the corner I saw her fiery house fold like a lawn chair and slam hissing into the swimming pool. The following day’s headline would read: “Dog Drowns in Fire” because it was true and because everyone loves authentic irony. It was brutal.

The lawn mower in the tool shed had exploded launching stored furniture, holiday decorations and bags of Moo-Doo over the garage, setting the house ablaze. My friend Sarah was in hysterics. Horrified, she thought of her diaries and the birth control pills.

I saw her Dad throw undamaged dining room chairs, two at a time, onto the flaming azaleas (he always hated those chairs). He kicked at a Captain Beefheart record as it melted, form-fit, over a garden gnome. “How Dali” he thought, then panic: his porn and all the hidden booze bottles.

Her Mom was on her hands and knees picking up shards of shattered Hummel figurines and weeping, her knees bloody. She looked back at the house and, reality check: a recent affair she secretly wished hadn’t ended. She had kept notes and a few photos.

I stood behind a tree across the street and wondered if there were a fire in my house, what would I pray would burn and be lost forever? Ironic, no?

Sarah was the worst lab partner ever. I had only meant to burn down the shed because she botched our science project. There goes my AP Bio credit. Brutal.

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Brothers . by Catherine Russell

The pale figure scratched his head with one taloned hand and regarded his brother. “Igor,” it said.

“Boris,” said the other creature, stepping from the shadows. “I knew you’d come back here eventually.”

“I could say the same about you,” Boris replied. Moonlight reflected off the surface of his marble skin.

Igor approached, though not a single leaf crunched beneath his feet. “Can you blame me? This was our home… long ago. ”

The other creature’s stillness remained unbroken. Electricity charged the atmosphere. The wind sang a mournful tune through trees whose leafy garments lay strewn upon the ground. After a few moments, Boris said, “I do.”

“I had no choice. The plague would have taken you… It was the only way.”

“Save my life by taking it? How can I thank you, brother?” No warmth lingered in his eyes for the companion of his ancient childhood.

“I sickened too. Our kind cannot consume infected blood without some risk. I almost died the truth death…”

“What a comfort that was as I fought to survive the wound you gave me.” He touched the scar on his neck.

“What can I do?” Igor asked.

“Finish what the plague started. Never again will you inflict this monstrosity on another to stave off your own weakness.” He grinned. “Don’t worry, old friend. I promise to be more merciful than you were to me. I will only kill you.”

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Brutal Honesty . by Randal Houle

My friend Dave once insisted that I have sex with his wife while he watched. I refused, of course. Not out of honor, though — she simply wasn’t my type.

Dave drank constantly. Still, I hung with the two of them because they picked me after my divorce. I lived downtown and Dave encouraged me to “get out there.”

“You gotta get down to the Eagle,” he said.

I trusted Dave’s recommendation and checked it out. Preferring women myself, I thought it was funny that he had sent me to one of Portland’s great gay clubs. The “gayness” never rubbed off onto me, though. I suppose you have to be born with it.

After about a year, maybe two, Mrs. Dave called me. She said she had left Dave and could I stay with him and make sure he stays off booze? I agreed because I had been their best man and felt some obligation to help them work through it.

A little more than a week passed. We repainted the house, fixed things. He stayed sober. The next day I was due to report to Mrs. Dave.

Dave had been drinking that night. I was half-asleep when over a half-fifth of rum went missing. He reached for me under my sleeping bag. I told him no. He insisted. After a short physical altercation, he retreated to the other couch and jerked off.

In the morning, I told Mrs. Dave that her husband missed her and she should come home.

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Scrabbled Sensitivities . by Fred Osuna

She was forward, even though they’d met anonymously via the website’s algorithm. Perhaps she just felt safe behind the monitor. She’d chatter like a nervous schoolgirl, not the sixty-year-old woman that she was. He’d win a game, then she would; he’d clear his tray and score two Bingos one round, she’d produce oddities like squeg, zoftig and exosmic the next. It was fun, until he started winning every time.

Then, she’d disappear for months. During each hiatus, she played friends and new strangers. Once she regained confidence, she’d send a message. Meg has invited you to a game, the pop-up would read. He’d always reply Yes. He enjoyed playing her, and expected he’d learn some arcane words.

She became increasingly fragile with each loss. She’d title their games “I’m Feeling Brave Tonight” or “I Must Be Crazy.” He thought she was just being funny.

The Saturday night in question, he led by 143 points. He rose and mixed himself a cocktail. When he returned, she’d canceled the game.

Why’d you quit? he wrote.

I can’t handle this massacre.

He criticized her form. You don’t invite someone to a game and quit because you’re not winning, he wrote.

She exploded. You might quit, too, if you were waiting to find out that your mother could die at any moment.

He extended his sympathies toward her mother’s condition. Then he matter-of-factly unfriended her.

The next morning, she drove to the cemetery to clip the grass around her mother’s gravestone.

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I Dream of Being Cruel . by Martin Brick

Not prettier, smarter, or richer. Not wiser. Cruel, un-nerving. Without the messy burden of guilt.

We got along great at first. She said, use any of my things, so I said use mine. She said eat any of my food, so I said eat mine. Difference is, she went for it. She wore my clothes, because she hated doing laundry. She ate the cookies grandma sent.

On the seven thousandth fire alarm (false of course) I still called her friend. Used that word first, rather than roommate. I hopped out of the top bunk just as she left the lower. Came down hard and broke her collarbone.

The boyfriend really got to me. Because I had a crush on him first. But she asked him out. And brought him back to our room. And expected me to disappear.

She told me if I needed the room, she’d happily clear out. Part of the reason I can’t hate her is because she meant it. It wasn’t said with the assumption I’d never collect. She imagined me capable of a one-night stand.

I heard the bone snap. My immediate reaction was elation. She writhed on the floor, in the nightgown she thought was sexy but not slutty, perfect for being seen in during firedrills

After they carted her off, I opened her vodka. She always said, help yourself. I imagined what I’d do if her boyfriend came by, with this liquid courage. Won’t happen, but still, I dream of being cruel.

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Marylou’s Baccalaureate . by Matt DeVirgiliis

Marylou Fisk sat in the back of her Senior English class at Saint Thomas High School. She passed notes — Marylou to Betsy, Betsy to Beth, Beth to Jenn.

Two weeks until graduation and the gang was still together. Just yesterday, they were sharing zit remedies, then tampons, and then kissing advice. From Baptism to First Communion, to Confirmation, and then Baccalaureate Mass, they’d done and seen it all. Never judged and never torn apart. They were as close as friends could be.

In between ketchup-covered fries, a Quarter Pounder, and a vanilla shake, catty comments, and lots of laughs, Marylou slipped in her announcement, a grenade in a rose garden. “I’m pregnant,” she said.

Marylou stood at her Baccalaureate Mass, crammed in the back of Saint Thomas’s Church with the parents who had arrived late. You can attend mass, Father Cuthbert — the principal — told her. But you can’t sit with your class. Betsy, Beth, and Jenn each had planned graduation parties. Marylou still hadn’t received her invitations. The three girls sat in their pew that day, chatting with each other as if they were whole, missing no pieces. Even Marylou’s parents stayed home, ashamed to be seen in church with their sinner.

“At least we have each other,” she said as she patted her barely visible bump.

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The day is long . by Guy Yasko

She waits for him all day. Where does he go? When will he be home? Why
does he leave me?

She didn’t think about him when the sun was out. She sat in the window and watched the birds in the bare trees. She watched pigeons take in the sunset on the roofs above the street. When night fell, she
burrowed into the covers on the mattress.

She hears the door open, then his heavy tread and his home-from-work sigh. She cocks eyes and ears and watches the kitchen. He takes a cabbage half from the cupboard and attacks it with brobdingnagian bites. She winces at the vegetable smell and the sound of saliva sucked between teeth, tongue and half-chewed cab- bage. She burrows into bed once more and shuts her eyes, only to be woken again by his arrival on the mattress. She listens for his breathing to slow, and when it does, she settles herself into the hollow of his chest and purrs.

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The Kiss . by Kim Hutchinson

In the fifteenth year, she developed a stammer. It happened all at once, at the front door.

One of his high school buddies, the one with no chin, tried to kiss her. But it wasn’t just a kiss. Chinless had hated her since that weekend at the cottage years ago, the one when he’d drunk for three days and nights straight and slapped his eleven month old daughter twenty feet into a wall.

He hated her because he’d done the slapping in front of her, the new wife, the city girl. The outsider.

She’d nearly fainted.

For a decade and a half, he and another buddy had been constantly on her, on the attack, tearing her to pieces after the second beer every Saturday night because she knew. Because they could.

Because her husband let them, liked it, even.

That day, he decided to kiss her, whether she liked it or not.

She pulled back. He locked his hands on her arms, possessing, insisting. Forcing.

She struggled free. Wiping her mouth, she escaped to the kitchen.

He followed, dogging her, backing her into the counter to block another escape, making conversation too loud, so loud that everyone else stopped talking, his face an inch from hers.

She began to shake.

The rest of the evening, and whenever she got frightened from then on, she stammered.

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Brutal . by Walter Bjorkman

I’m gettin hungry, I always do after, but he hasta get back to the ship, so instead we walk the two blocks to the pier. I’m holding tight to his arm, I figure he’s back, what better do I have, not youse guys, I’m your night moves, you go back to the Slope every morning – ain’t gonna bring me back there. He’s makin nice too, givin me that nuzzle on the neck that gives shivers. So I says to him I guess we can pick up again, what are you in town for a few days every few weeks? He starts to get a jitter in his left leg, shakin his right hand in his pocket, like he always does when he’s hidin somethin. So I ask, right out, “You gonna see me, right? This wasn’t just tonight?’ Now he starts to give me the tears, he sits down on the edge of the dock an’ tells me he’s been married these past three years, to that bitch Lena he used to see every now and then. He looked for me – bullshit! and when he couldn’t find me – more bullshit!, he got back with her. So I pick up a two by four and I’m gonna whack him over the head. Figure they’ll find him washed up in Gravesend Bay in a week or so. But I dinnt, just left his no-good drunken sailor ass there. I figure sooner or later Lena’ll do it.

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The Truth . by John Wentworth Chapin
“You’d want me to tell you, right?” 

I pause. “Of course.” This is a polite lie; I haven’t made up my mind.

“Good friends have to be brutally honest, because no one else will. Tell me.”

I ponder the differences between our families; we were kids together and know each other well. I grew up with perhaps a little too much honesty. We are loud: we yell, we cry, we slam our flatware and storm out of the room. It is tiresome. I dream of a Thanksgiving without tears. His people eat soggy casseroles and smile with tight lips. It would be unthinkable to say something honest and personal between them.

So of course he needs me to be honest. But he doesn’t know how fucking mean I am; I am wise enough to keep it under wraps. He doesn’t know how deeply I judge, that I roll my eyes, that I pretend his new bathroom paint looks good, how I hated the sundried tomatoes in that omelet.

He forces a jovial grunt and pushes my shoulder. “Come on, for fuck’s sake! Tell me what you really think. That’s what friends are for.”

I consider this, fully. “I think you two are bad for each other,” I say.

He stares back at me, catching a short breath.

“You asked,” I remind him.

I watch a film descend over his eyes. He retreats, he gets polite.

“I guess you’re still on edge about your last break-up,” he says.

I fucking knew this would happen.

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You Say Arugula, I Say Lettuce . by Michelle Elvy

I was surprised when Carrie called. We hadn’t seen each other in years. We’d been high-school friends, sure — the kind you don’t expect to see again after you’ve been pomp-and-circumstanced down the school stadium steps and the last D-Major chord has drifted out on the breeze. But I’d just had my first baby and she’d had her second, so she called for a mommy’s lunch.

At the upscale yuppy café (“my fave,” she gushed), I ordered a baked stuffed potato (the closest thing to real food on offer) while she drank protein-vitamin-water and pushed sprigs of delicately arranged arugula around her plate.

We caught up: the husband/house/job/childbirth list. She swooned about her offspring, who were home with the au pair, while mine nursed noisily in my lap.

I sought peace in my potato while she carried on about her dullard husband and her sterile McMansion. And her stupid onroad/offroad jogging stroller – the Landrover of strollers. “I prefer my 1970 Buick LeSabre model,” I offered, “which has seen my sisters through five kids. It’s named Blue Betty.” Carrie grimaced. My wee angel farted marvelously.

When she said she could not stay for dessert, I masked my elation as she air-kissed my cheeks goodbye. She sashayed out of the café just as my chocolate mint parfait arrived. I watched her go, musing on the contrast between her perfectly heart-shaped jogger’s ass and the green sprigs of lettuce stuck between her porcelain white teeth.

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The Editors of 52|250 wish to thank Lola Elvy for her painting The Food Chain this week, which is a crayon drawing with blue dye.

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Filed under Wk #22 - The brutality of friends

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