By Ritta M. Basu
It wouldn’t be hard to spend every dime she had at a corner bar, April thought as she sat sipping rum and coke, listening to the barmaid talk about how scared teachers in her district were about losing their jobs.
Jesse tended the tiny bar every other weekend to help pay for the master’s program she hoped would increase her salary as a special education teacher. She was a cute young thing with short black hair and a cute enough figure to attract the eyes of the men gathered around watching basketball and talking history and politics.
April’s appearance would never attract much attention in a place like this, but she did have a few things to add to the conversation. She talked to Jesse about the latest education reform bill and listened to a office telephone salesman talk about how he paid in-state tuition for his daughter who went to college three states away. Soon, she found herself all wrapped up in a conversation between the Vietnam vet with a modern literature degree and a Best Buy manager with a history degree concerning the encroaching threat of socialism under Obama.
April had not planned to visit the bar that afternoon. She needed to grade papers for her freshman sociology students. Here she was though, ordering one drink after another and finding a whole new kind of distraction. The men and women who gathered around the bar were talented conversationalists and easily drew April into their crowd. She hadn’t felt this “included” in a long time and was enjoying herself immensely.
Feeling a little buzzed, April slipped off the barstool and into the ladies room. When she looked at her cell, it showed she’d missed four calls. Her heart began to race a little as she hit “dial.”
The phone barely rang before she heard her husband’s angry voice, “Where the hell are you?”
“At the library grading papers,” April lied, her own voice defensive.
“I’ve called you 20 fucking times.”
April lied again, “I left the phone in the car. “
She’d been lying to him for as long as she could remember. It was the easiest way she knew to control the rage that permeated his voice now.
“Rick, calm down. I’m on my way.” She heard a click on the other end of the phone.
It was doubtful that her husband of 12 years was even at home. He was never home. He preferred his office.
She washed her hands and went back to the bar, praying she had enough cash to pay the tab. A $54 charge would surely draw Rick’s questions.
“Well guys, it’s been great meeting all of you,” April said, feeling a deep sadness. She wished Jesse good luck with school.
Everyone bid her farewell and asked her to come back soon.
As she headed out the door, rushing toward whatever fight waited, she wished she could just stay here, among friends.
After 12 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and several years more publishing press releases and alumni magazines in university PR shops, Ritta was looking for an outlet for more creative written expression. Flash fiction quickly became a way to combine her love of concise, clear writing, with inventive expression. Ritta serves as one of the editors, and founder, of FewerThan500.com.