Pauline decided to rent a cabin in the woods where she could die peacefully. She sold her house and everything in it except for some clothes, her car, and a framed photo of her beloved toy poodle, Beau. For weeks, she lived among tall trees where no light could penetrate. At night, her heavy head sunk deep into the pillow. Once, she heard a terrible scream, but knew it was a vixen calling out to her mate. She went back to sleep, unafraid. If it had been human, if someone had wanted to come in and kill her, so what? She put her trust in the Good Lord, knowing that soon she would enter His Holy Kingdom.
_____Instead of growing weaker, however, Pauline grew stronger. The food she’d packed in had run out. Her appetite, ravenous. One afternoon, she decided to drive her old reliable Buick into town to buy some groceries. On the way, she passed a purple Baja Bug in a dumpy car lot. A frivolity, the modified Beetle nonetheless called out to her. She had always lived her life inside the lines. She went back, traded her car on the spot, and drove off.
_____When she got into town it was late. She was famished. There was only one restaurant, a bar, its neon sign promising “Liquor – Dancing.”
_____A good Baptist, Pauline had never let alcohol pass through her lips. Nor had she ever smoked or danced. Entering a place like the Stumble Inn was sinful. Even so, she parked her Baja Bug outside and went in, sliding into an empty booth in the corner.
_____A man with a mischievous mustache sashayed over and slid in across from her. At first, she thought he might be a ghost who’d walked out of the wood paneling.
_____“You must be new in town.”
_____“Just passing through.”
_____He offered her a smoke. Though Pauline had been taught that cigarettes were harmful to one’s health, her body a temple, she thought, Why not? The man tapped out a stick, and she put it between her lips and let him light it, and immediately she choked. The man raised one of his bushy eyebrows. They both laughed. After a while, she got the hang of it, holding the cigarette gracefully between her fingers, sucking its smoky warmth into her lungs.
_____The man plunked some quarters into the jukebox.
_____Pauline didn’t hesitate. He escorted her onto the floor where it was just the two of them. The bartend and waitress looked on, while Tony Bennett crooned “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.” The man reined her in tight, his flannel shirt soft against her skin, his Old Spice Cologne tickling her nostrils. He pressed her tightly, their hips held together like praying hands.
DS Levy‘s work has been published in New Flash Fiction Review, Little Fiction, Barren Magazine, MoonPark Review, Cotton Xenomorph, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Columbia, Brevity, and others. A collection of flash fiction, A Binary Heart, was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press.
this is a stellar example of beguiling character development through a burst of conscience