Flash Fiction - "Porcelain Plates"

on Apr 1, 2011

Rosy Moddy was the kind of red-cheeked, wild-haired woman that could easily hold my attention. She had the look about her of someone who didn't quite know where she was coming from, or where she might be going to. Sometimes she would come into the A&D Grocery and I would watch her talk to the owner, Kent Maloni. She always bought something: a magazine, a carton of milk, a tall tale about Kent's private investigating business, which I thought was a big fat lie. She had small, plump hands, like a child's, and I would study her fingers sometimes, her small knuckles, a chipped nail. I had never seen such clean cuticles.

“You must wash your hands a lot,” I remarked once.

“Do you work here?” she replied.

I mumbled something and shoved my hands in my pockets. Then I sidled away like a garden snake.

There was a grassy plateau about a mile outside of town that looked just like Rosy Moddy's left breast. It was sleek and perfectly curved, and I would lie there some days, watching cloud-shaped nipples and wondering if her skin tasted like butter or a clean plate. My thoughts would wander, imagining her perfect, flawless, sloping chest. I would eat off of those plates if she would let me. I had never asked, despite having watched her since her first visit to the A&D Grocery, tiny feet in thick sandals and a pronounced chin. I don't think she liked anyone mentioning her small pink feet, like her small pink hands. I wanted to nibble them.

We finally crossed paths one day just as she was leaving the store; I was leaning against the door outside, blocking her exit, and she had to tap the glass. “Could you move? Move please? Hey, can you move out of the way? Move over!” I pretended not to hear her because I liked the fact that she was an inch away, even if there was a door between us; you would too if you could imagine the sweetly muffled tone of her voice. It reminded me of visiting my mother in the hospital where she had lived for most of my childhood. (She still lived there, actually, but I hadn't visited since my twenty-seventh birthday.)

“Could you please get out of the way?” Rosy Moddy's voice was in my ear. I tried to turn, to touch her tapping fingers, but of course I needed to open the door first. But if I opened the door, she would walk right past me, probably ignore me, rush out to the parking lot. I couldn't let this go on. I had to talk to her. I still didn't know what I would say. I would say anything.

I kept the door shut and stared through the glass.

“Rosy Moddy?” I said, and looked straight into her wide, bluish eyes, which made me think of shiny car paint. “My name is Emerson,” actually, it was Dean, but I didn't like giving out my first name to strangers, and besides, Emerson was more sophisticated. When I was fifteen, my father had stormed out of the house, saying he had always wanted to call me Rocky and that it was too late to change anything. I thought Rocky was a name reserved for Italians and mountain climbers, but Emerson, there was a proud name, like a big forest or a thick, winding river, or a broad hill covered in slippery grass that overlooked oceans and oceans of naked clouds. I wanted to explain it to her, show her the real me, not the lurker on aisle three.

“Can you please get out of the way?” she asked, her voice strained.

“In a moment – let me explain – wait,” and I waited for just a second, glancing at the clouds overhead. I bet she tasted like cloud. I could hear her irritated breathing through the glass, or maybe my own breath, and it felt fresh and amazing. The air smelled of asphalt. “Tomorrow I'm going to a rodeo a ways North, past the county line. Do you like horses? You should come with me.”

“I need to go home now,” she said, raising a red brow.

“I can give you a ride,” I said.

“I have a car.”

“Then I'll drive it. Maybe we could get to know each other over dinner?”

She resisted, but seemed thoughtful. “Well... it's been a while since I had company....”

“If you'll cook, I'll wash the dishes,” I added.

She gave me a puzzled look, but then she smiled, and her cheeks were two perfect apples. She didn't answer, but handed me the keys to her car, and I didn't wonder about where she lived, or where she came from, or where we were going to.


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