Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Call Me MAYbe Flash Fiction #18: The Yellow Light by Pete Fanning

Welcome to the Call Me MAYbe Flash Fiction Challenge!!
All stories begin with "The phone rang" and are no more than 1,000 words. Deadline to submit is May 31. For full contest rules and prize list, visit this link: http://mystiparker.blogspot.com/2013/04/next-month-call-me-maybe-flash-fiction.html

#18: The Yellow Light
Pete Fanning
The phone rang, shaking me from the tranquil stupor of my dark hole.  I awoke in the Econo lodge, reaching for the device as the trucks rumbled along the overpass. Rubbing my eyes, I saw my wife’s picture on the screen.  I pressed answer and waited. 
“I can’t do this Mark...”
My wife was cheating on me.  After eleven years of marriage you know these things, the subtle changes that spilled her secrets. Her walk was different, livelier, as though the springs had been uncoiled. Of course I wouldn’t go making wild accusations on the account of my wife’s walk, but take for instance, her deodorant.  Just hear me out.  For ten years her deodorant was that of a summer breeze that tingled my nose when we dressed for work. But now, spring flowers. No tingle.
“I’ll talk to you in a few days, but after last night I don’t want to see you...”
A while ago I began putting it together, the hair, the red wine, the sudden interest in romance novels, Michael Buble. Last night it all came out when she practically confessed.
“So how was the seminar?” I had asked on the way to dinner as the light on our street flashed from green to red, skipping the cautionary yellow.
My wife is an insurance agent and her life is one of dreadful seminars.  Seminars for new products, risk management, annuities, selling to seniors, and a slew of other sleep-inducing training seminars, the recaps of which I tuned out like an Easter morning sermon. 
“Well, on Thursday…”
That was as far as I made it before getting sidetracked. Why in the world did that light always change without regard to traffic or reason?  My letters to city council had been ignored.
I turned to Jane, who was waiting for me to say something.  My wife’s name is Jane by the way.  My apologies, I’m awful at introductions. Anyway, Jane—my cheating wife—was staring at me and awaiting my response.   
“Wow.”  I managed, and waited for the deep sigh, the disgusted headshake in response to my bland answer.  But instead she glanced down towards the phone, her fingers working the screen with calm precision.  That was another new development, the constant phone.
Dinner was uneventful.  Our weekly Saturday outing with Steve and Laura, old friends from our old neighborhood, was a tradition started out of boredom.  Steve ordered the ribeye, Laura the Santa Fe Salad.  Laura needed less Santa Fe and more salad.  After droning on about our respective workweeks and my job search, we discussed the housing market, or the housing mirage as Laura called it.  This led to a snooze fest involving interest rates and FDA approved loans.  I drank three Sam Adams and plotted the death of my neighbor.
Not my old neighbor Steve—although had he kept on about golf I may have tightened the grip on my fork—but rather my new neighbor, Chris.  Hunky Chris rents the bungalow next door.  He’s tall, single and apparently quite the handy man.  He came over unannounced one Saturday morning and fixed our fence just as I was waking up.  Sipping coffee, I stumbled upon them through the kitchen window.  Him, holding a shovel in his hands smiling and nodding, Jane talking with her hands, using her sweet voice I remembered from a different life.  I watched their cute little conversation come to an end, with several thank you’s and sturdy no problems before Jane fluttered back towards the house, her smile vanishing with each summoning step up the porch.
On the way home from dinner Jane was back to her phone, the screen illuminating her glasses.  The glasses have made a comeback after 10 years of contacts. 
The walk, the spring flowers, the glasses, I couldn’t take it any longer.  How long were we going to play this little game? 
“So how long have you two been screwing?”
My voice faltered just a touch, but it was out there.  I wanted to hear what she had to say for herself. What did she have to say about those vows that we made eleven years ago, vows weakened by time and circumstance, forgotten after trying for nearly 8 years to have kids until giving up on sex all together?  At least with each other.
She brought the phone down gently; the gesture lending dramatic pause to the moment as the car went dark.  The radio announced a one time blow out sale extravaganza event this weekend only at a local department store.  A yoga breath through the nose before both lenses were trained on me.
“Who am I screwing Mark?”
“You know who.”
“No Mark. I don’t.  Please tell me who I’m screwing.  I would love to know what you’ve cooked up.”
“Don’t make this about me, I saw you with our neighbor, your little boy toy.”
She turned back to the window, bringing her hand to her mouth as the lights streamed in the distance. I drove in silence, letting her guilt hang in the darkness before she cleared her throat with her gaze still at the window.
“Mark, let’s get you some help.  I’m serious.  At first with the job, I thought it would be good for you to have some time off, but….”
“There you go again.  This isn’t about me Jane.”
We pulled into the driveway, the headlights shining on the unpainted fence post in the side yard, another excuse for Chris to come over and take his shirt off.  Jane stepped out and then leaned in with her hand on the door, the interior light exposing the path of a tear escaping down her cheek.
“Thanks for a spectacular 40th Mark.  Don’t bother coming inside.”
A shove of the door and she strode towards the house, a hybrid of walks both old and new.  I backed out of the driveway as the porch light next door clicked on, positive that my wife was cheating on me.


Pete Fanning, brand new dad and aspiring author working on his first novel. 


  1. Wow, Pete, that was very good. You conveyed so much about Mark and Jane in a short story. I got the impression that Mark accused her a lot or might have been in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

    You did leave us guessing.

  2. Thanks Leona, I was trying to make him a very unreliable narrarator, I like the Alzheimer's angle.

  3. Definitely an unreliable narrator, Pete -- He droned on so that I was ready to speak when Jane did (this is a good thing!) and enjoyed that you left me hanging in the end - is she, or isn't she? She could be -- but he's the one with the real issue. Well done.
    - judy

  4. Nice tale Pete :) I liked how this story leaves much to the imagination as to what's really going on. Great job!

  5. You did a great job on this story. Misconceived perceptions or misbegotten betrayal? Either way--terribly sad.


***NOTICE*** Thanks to a spam bot infestation, every comment must now be subjected to a full-body search. If you pass, you can skip the anal probing...maybe.