Category Archives: John Wentworth Chapin

John Chapin’s Flash

Blue Crabs by John Wentworth Chapin

“You gonna eat?” she asks. They pick crabs alone at a wooden picnic table at the end of a pier. Some inept guy with a double outboard tries a third time to back up to the dock beside them.

“No appetite,” the husband says. He’s hardly eaten since he caught her cheating.

She guffaws. “You have plenty of appetite for that beer. The last thing you need is a DUI.” She’s right. Not less than three months ago, he got probation for assault: he broke four of the guy’s teeth when he caught them. Now he wishes the two had run away together.

The wife slaps the table and stands. “You bore me. We’re leaving.”

It happens fast: her high heel catches on the picnic bench, and she tries to catch her balance, hopping on the other high heel. When the heel becomes free, she goes flying where she’s leaning, and in a second, she’s in the creek. Mr Outboard backs churning engines toward where the wife disappears into the dark water.

The perfect murder, and it’s not even murder; Mr Outboard hasn’t seen a thing.

But there are no witnesses. No police or judge would believe this to be an accident, not after last year. The husband shouts over the thrumming engines, and the boater shuts them off, confused and then alarmed as he sees where she has now surfaced, bedraggled and sputtering angrily. The husband considers helping her more but chooses to finish his beer.

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Bye-bye Love by John Wentworth Chapin

“Barbie stood naked before the throng, facing all defiantly,” the Narratrix intoned. The crowd of men jeered: a green Power Ranger, a handful of Pokémon, two Batmen, and Bob the Builder, behind them a seething mass of African Safari animals and sharks. Barbie wore only her clear pink heels, her defiance untempered by her precarious stance on a white Lexus convertible. The potential for mayhem was tangible.

“Whore!” cried Papa Smurf, leaping vertically and shaking with righteous zeal. Barbie fell from her makeshift gallows, taking out a Lion and the Polar Bear of Unknown Origin. Barbie quickly hopped back.

“You may call me whore, but I will never bow to your rules.” Barbie pushed her flowing golden locks behind her shoulder.

“Burn the witch!” cried the crowd.

Barbie shook with fury. “I would rather die than live a lie. I could never love Ken. NEVER, I say!”

“A single tear fell down her lovely cheek,” whispered the Narratrix; Barbie was thinking of her one true love, Dora, silent in suicidal repose after her Hummer plummeted off the couch.

Ken soared through the air, collecting Barbie in his well-defined arms. The Narratrix’s voice was triumphant: “The crowd howled, cheated.”

“No!” Barbie screamed. “Let me die! Let my love and me reunite in death!”

Ken deposited her on the pouf where the Hulk waited, chest bared. “Be patient, sister,” Ken said. “We can fool them another fifty years.”

The Narratrix blinked back tears. “Fuck NOM,” she hissed.

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An Old Peach by John Wentworth Chapin

Uncle Allen came to live with him for a short while, between retirement and nursing home. Allen would stroll the remains of the orchard, reminiscing with Tad, flirting with dementia. One row held a decrepit peach which yielded a host of sad fruit over the decades. In amongst a cluster of old trees that produced reliably, all of which were planted before Tad’s folks bought the place, this tree bore hard nubs ripe with promise which wizened to black before July. “This tree,” Allen said when they walked the property together, “will never amount to nothing. It sucks the life from the trees around it. They’d all produce better if it was chopped down.” Once, he added, “And that’s what my mother always said about me.” He didn’t repeat it.

The nursing home was a horrid, low-rent affair that shamed both Tad and Allen; it was easier for them both if Allen just died, which he did eighteen months later. Within weeks of the funeral on the north slope, that tree bore luscious peaches the likes of which Tad had never seen on his farm. He plucked one at first ripeness and carved a slice with his pocketknife: sweet and juicy. He wolfed the peach down and wiped his bristled chin.

In his palm lay a blackened, shriveled pit the likes of which he’d never seen on his farm. He took the old peach down himself with an axe that afternoon, leaving the fruit to rot in the grass.

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The Truth about the Law by John Wentworth Chapin

I hear the undying screams of the children outside. The pitch never rises or falls; as one voice falls silent, another joins in. This persistent caterwauling threatens my resolve, but I am determined. I have worked it out carefully, mulling doctrine. I know right from wrong. I’m seven; I’m not an idiot.

God is all-knowing; there is no way to escape His notice. I can’t hope for a sneeze or a turned back. Even if there were a volcano in the Philippines right now, he’d pluck the memory from my mind. It’s obscene. He already knows I’ll do it. I am stealthy and efficient.

There are all sorts of sins, but they have one thing in common. Whether you pinch your sister or slaughter a family with an axe, you can be forgiven: just apologize. You don’t even have to be contrite. Clearly, God is desperate for our entreaties. His law is unavoidable but woefully deficient. My aunt says I should be a preacher – I know the Word – but I plan to be a lawyer. Apologies mean nothing in court.

I unwrap her birthday presents on the front hall table while outside she gnaws her filthy hot dog and smears mustard on her flouncy birthday dress. As long as the cola-soaked miscreants scream, her parents will remain in the back yard, and I am safe in here with God’s eye and a diminishing pile of toys shrouded in paper mystery.

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Same Old Song and Dance by John Wentworth Chapin

Sundown on a resort balcony; lazy waves purred below. “You don’t believe in fate? Still?” Sand dusted the tops of Sam’s feet which rested on the railing.

“We found each other, sure, against all odds.” Ty chewed on a gin-soaked lime peel.

“That sounds like an accident. My head and my pants say this is fate.”

“Fate is 31 flavors and you end up with a tasty but random scoop. But you haven’t had the other 30 to know the difference. Choice is… a whole mall that only sells socks and you try them all on and there’s only one pair that fits. You, my dear man, are my pair.”

“You want to get laid talking socks.”

Ty shrugged. “I’m getting laid no matter the topic.”

“Fate.”

“Lust.”

Sam grunted and cracked a smile.

Ty breathed in salt and contentment. “You want to believe we were put together by the universe. Forces coming together to create us. The universe doesn’t care, my love.” Ty leaned over and pecked Sam on the cheek. “But I do.”

“You want to believe you had a choice in the matter.”

“You want me to say that thirty-one years together is someone or something else’s doing? Nope.”

“I think we had this same disagreement on our twenty-third anniversary. Italy.” Sam said.

Ty shook his head and tapped Sam’s foot with his toe. “Twentieth. Aruba.”

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If Hell… by John Wentworth Chapin

Even if…
we wake up in a hell of misery
                      lies tucked behind easier lies
                      bankruptcy
                      tumors rattling
or a hell of comfort
                      rusted water heater
                      cataracts
                      working late
or the hell of others
                      the sour waft of a secret
                      i know it’s late but you have to listen still

as long as it is we who wake together
                      i trace your brow
when i pull close, you pull closer
and hell is beyond

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Game Night by John Wentworth Chapin

Seven empty wine bottles huddled on the coffee table. “URGENT,” I said to my brother. He stared blankly at me. “URGENT,” I repeated. You can’t say more in Password.

“I heard you,” he snapped. He stared at the burgundy dregs in his glass. I wanted to go to bed, but I wanted to win. Competitive and drunk.

“You’re taking too long,” my mother said. If she said anything else, he would explode. I couldn’t believe she didn’t know that by now.

He paused, long and deliberate, daring anyone to goad him.

“DELIVERY,” he said. I sighed.

“SOS,” his wife said to my mother immediately, barely a pause.

“HELP,” my mother responded. It was the right answer.

My brother glowered. “Delivery was a good guess,” he said.

“But it was wrong!” his wife chirped.

His eyes were glazed: the wine, the late hour, the competition. A bad combination. He and my mother looked at the next card.

“DOCTOR,” she said to her daughter-in-law.

“NURSE,” came the reply. My mother shook her head and frowned.

My brother stared at the card, again too long. He looked at me. “DOCTOR,” he said, nodding slowly.

“She just said that,” I groaned, my tone critical, bewildered.

“I know she just said that,” he snarled. “DOCTOR.” He nodded, persistent.

“You can’t gesture,” my mother complained.

I took in a sharp breath. “NURSE,” I hissed.

He called me a fucking asshole before he upended the coffee table and sent the bottles clattering across the floor.

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