HAPPY CRYSTAL ANNIVERSARY!

A Short Story (flash fiction)

by Michael Priebe

Note: This story was first published at MASH stories as part of their fifth quarterly flash fiction competition's shortlist. The author encourages readers and aspiring writers to visit mashstories.com to view other works and participate in the quarterly flash fiction competition.

I was having difficulty breathing as I worked at stuffing my duffel bag into the overhead compartment. The tubal outline of the blow-dryer pushed against the fabric of my carry-on like an erection I wanted hidden. It seemed as if the damn thing were alive and needed air; this memento of my near infidelity was determined to ruin me.

 

The plane’s final boarding group distracted me. Chatter, coughs, and the maniacal hum of luggage wheels pushed down the aisle like an epic tsunami moving through big-city streets in some Armageddon film. My wife was approaching.

 

“Get in there, you bastard,” I said, giving the bag another push.

 

I nodded casually to Lisa, whose progress was stalled behind an elderly couple.

 

The storage still wouldn’t close. I just wanted out of Las Vegas. I wanted home.

 

The bulge preventing my duffel from tidy passage taunted me. This blow-dryer seemed twitchy, ready to pounce. I pictured it zigzagging through coach and first class like a drunken terror bomber storming the cockpit; there it would plug into some portable power and announce, through the public address system, every embarrassing detail it had witnessed regarding my hooker-in-the-hotel-room mistake last night.

 

Everyone would be appalled to hear how young Crystal the Professional had been; they’d shudder to learn this dalliance happened during a trip celebrating my fifteenth wedding anniversary. 

 

In a resurgence of my depression—perhaps triggered by some reminder of death and aging, like a marriage anniversary—I’d urged Lisa to go alone to her sister’s place in Boulder City yesterday. “Just stay overnight,” I said. Then I rebooked our suite to suffer the vacation’s final hours in desired seclusion. Lisa and I agreed to meet at the airport for morning departure.

 

At the hotel lounge, Crystal had taken the barstool next to mine—not randomly as it turns out—and proceeded to pour thousand-proof compliments. My parched neurotransmitter system lapped up the flattering winks and words.

 

Who knew my nubile friend didn’t really need the phone in my room to call her mother? Also, who knew that a sex worker might carry a Hello Kitty blow-dryer, something so conspicuously out of place in a married man’s hotel room that he panicked and stuffed the pink derelict in his luggage to avoid a lost-item contact from Guest Relations?

 

But I’d only talked with the twenty-two-year-old as she used my mirror and vanity to prep for others—men who said yes.

 

“Here, let me get that for you,” Lisa said, reaching over my shoulders to give the duffel a shove. “What the hell is that? A blow-dryer?” Fifteen years of packing our bags, from honeymoon to hospital stays, gave my wife strange powers of geometric discernment.

 

I closed the overhead. I really didn’t want to tell Lisa my sickness was back.

 

“It is a blow-dryer,” I answered, preparing to talk about everything. Honesty might get us to our golden years.

 

 

Copyright 2015 Michael Priebe - Title background photo acknowledgment to ZQ at designbolts.com