Digby Beaumont: Flash Fiction
Selected by Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poetry Editor
Let’s Never Be Apart
Late afternoon, I’m sitting alone in the lounge of the Brighton Holiday Inn remembering Ed, when we were kids, how he’d always want to play the Joker to my Batman, Lex Luther to my Superman.
I drain my whisky glass. A woman in the doorway stares in my direction. Early forties, low cut top, cropped hair bleached pure white.
I look away. When I turn back, she’s making her way over.
“Dean? Oh, my God. Dean, it is you.”
I start to say no, she’s mistaken—
“How are you?” she says. “You look great. Love the beard.”
She sits, green eyes wide, ash-grey flecks in her roots, and I try again.
“I had a weird feeling about today,” she says. She moistens her lips
with her tongue. “So what are you doing in Brighton? Down on business?” I want to tell her: a funeral, my best friend, Ed. The thought makes
She glances back at the doorway, gives me a little, lopsided smile. “So
you didn’t give it all up and become an organic farmer, after all?”
I try to smile back. It comes out a twitch of the lips.
Moving her face close to mine, she lowers her voice. “I always knew
we’d meet again.” Her breath smells of tobacco and toothpaste.
I envy this Dean she believes me to be. Why did it end between them?
I want to touch her hand, say I never gave up hope, in all the years—the dreams, the disappointments, the loneliness.
A waiter appears, asking if we’d like to order something.
This is where I come clean, I tell myself. Sorry, I’m not who you think I am. Like I wasn’t for Ed. I couldn’t save him from jumping in front of that
I turn to the woman. She places her room key on the table. I picture the two of us sharing a bottle of Pinot Noir before leaning into each other all the way up to her room, where she’ll transform into Wonder Woman with me her arch-enemy Hades, holding onto bodies that don’t want to die. And for a time, at least, we won’t think of the darkness falling outside.
The Naming of Fruit
Not long before Daniel’s mother dies, she sits up in bed and leans close to him. “You’re very young to be in a place like this,” she says. He flinches as she strokes his arm. Is this flirting? he wonders.
Weeks ago the nurses told him, “Tomorrow she’s just as likely to know who you are.” It made Daniel think of that portrait by Magritte, the one of the man facing the mirror and seeing the back of his own head.
On his next visit he brought his mother fresh fruit: strawberries, peaches and cherries. Her favourites. She named each one. “See? Easy,” he said, wiping peach juice from her chin. “Why’s it so hard to remember me?”
A memory comes up: his mother when he was a young boy, how she loved to dance. Back home from school, Daniel would find her in the kitchen, singing along and moving to the music on the radio—The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, James Brown, The Supremes. Her hands would reach out to him. “Dance with me,” she’d say. He’d roll his eyes and walk away.
He sits on the edge of her bed. She holds him by the wrists, turns his hands over to examine the palms and sighs, as if she can’t find what she hoped would be there.
Later he’ll call the nurses into the room. What was she doing out of bed? they’ll wonder. He’ll remember: “Hey Jude” playing on the bedside radio. Her starting to sway. The reckless smile she gave. How the colour rose in her cheeks as he cradled her in his arms.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Digby Beaumont’s short fiction has been published widely in print and online literary journals and anthologies, most recently Boston Literary Review, 100 Word Story, Flash Frontier, Blue Five Notebook, r.kv.r.y. Quarterly Literary Journal, Flash Flood Journal, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, KYSO Flash and Literary Orphans Journal. His collection of flash fiction, one-page stories, Dancing Alone and Other Lessons, was released in early 2020. Digby has had a long career as a writer and published numerous English language textbooks with Heinemann and Macmillan, including international bestsellers. He is also an artist. An interview with him about his art plus a showcase of some of his portrait work feature in the November 2019 issue of the online journal, Tupelo Quarterly. He lives by the seafront in Hove on the south coast of England.