Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jen Reich the Winner of the Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon Flash Fiction Challenge

Buy this on Etsy for $250
 What If  by Jen Reich

Three weeks have come and gone
This time it was my choice, I realize
I asked you to stay with friends and you didn’t protest
What’s more, we didn’t say our usual goodbyes

I just couldn’t stand the shouting and at that moment
I would have given anything not to argue
From the way you looked when you walked out the door
I could tell you were sick, tired and fed up too

After you left I decided a change was in order
So I moved furniture around and took our pictures off the shelf
I was feeling pretty good and once or twice I even thought,
See that! I’m better off by myself

Two weeks ago I adopted a dog
The one I always wanted that you’d never let me own
Oh and I started drinking heavily and smoking again
And a few other minor things you would never condone

One week ago I revisited the bar scene
And started staying out late with friends
I guess I had some childish impulses I needed to relive
Don’t worry, nothing for which I need to make any amends

Yesterday all of this started getting old
Actually, long before that to be true
From the moment you left, throughout all of this time
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you

My reminiscence was complemented by a memoir-box
And I grinned when I saw what was on top
It was a photo of us from 1963
Of our first date which was a borderline-flop

I took you to my favorite Italian hole-in-the-wall
And you kept swearing, Yes everything is fine!
You were thoroughly unimpressed by the lack of d├ęcor
And couldn’t believe they used a water glass for wine

Still, the conversation was stellar and your eyes sparkled
And even though I didn’t think you would say yes
Two weeks later I called you about my brother’s wedding
And asked you to be my guest

And I’m so glad I did because you accepted
And that week my whole world was bright
Still my happy glow paled in comparison
To the beauty and significance of that night

We danced as if we were the bride and groom
Songs like ‘S Wonderful and For All We Know
The Coots tune became “our song” and how fitting it was
Given all the times you’d leave when I was low

The next night you called the whole thing off
You said you didn’t want to be tied down
And ever since then a similar sentence
Has been all too familiar a sound

The reason I grinned when I saw that photo
Was that it was torn very neatly in half
That must have been something you did to spite me one day
Just picturing you doing it makes me whole-heartedly laugh

How did I ever get you to marry me, Shirley
It must have been something I said
Something I did or the way I looked at you
When you were lying next to me in bed

Whatever it was it worked and I’m glad
And the vows I make, I pay
So I meant it when I said for better or for worse
And I will never regret that day

I don’t even regret all of the fights that we’ve had
Without them we wouldn’t be who we are
What I regret is all of the time we’ve spent apart
Never knowing if you’re near or far

We may never meet again – what if –
Coots knew what he was talking about
Tomorrow may never come – what if –
The next day’s certainty I’m beginning to doubt

I’m not getting any younger but perhaps you are
Your spunk never seems to wear thin
That’s one of the many reasons I love you, Shirley
Through that front door I am just hoping you walk in

I found the dog a new owner and put our pictures back up
Now I’m just waiting for you to come home
I let out all of the frustrations that I needed to
And resolved that I don’t want to be without you, alone

No matter how many times we argue
You are my only true love, of that I am sure
And most of our memories make me smile
Despite all of the trials we’ve endured

Three weeks have come and gone
This time it was my choice, I realize
At this moment I wish I could take it all back
What if the next time we’re apart – what if, one of us dies?


Tears were rolling down Shirley Ophanon’s face as she read the poem her husband had left on the kitchen counter.

She crept into the bedroom, laid next to him and with one arm and her body, squeezed him as tightly as she could.

I’m a total cornball and I instantly fell for Jen Reich’s “What if.”  So Reich gets the drawing.  At first I was a little nervous; I’m always suspicious of poetry.  I guess I’m a standard kind of poetry guy.  Some of favorite poems are “My Last Duchess,” “A Certain Slant of Light” and “Raisin in the Sun.” Some of my favorite poets are Ogden Nash, Robert Frost, Langston Hughs and Walt Whitman, so I guess you could say I’m stuck in the past with very traditional prose.  In a way that makes me a little inflexible, but I loved “What if.”  I think I loved it on a couple of different levels.  One level was that it was so familiar and I understood a lot of the thoughts and feelings of the poet, who on another level was not Jen Reich but rather Mr. Ophanon.  I loved the fact that it was a poem within a story!  Good good stuff.

It’s cornball me again.  I loved the romantic sentiments in Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon by Rochelle Wattz.  I’m man enough to admit that I read and liked Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook” and “The Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller (I still haven’t seen the movie yet.)  Wattz’ story had a similar tone and I had the same pleasure in reading it.

“Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon” by Debbie Weiss is one of those stories that has a pathos.  I think most people can relate.  We’ve all been in relationships and saw someone we didn’t know but thought were beautiful.  This story is one of those in which the author spins the story out from that point of departure.

What a great story The Man Handler by Patrick Nelson is!  Have you ever been in a bar and watched one of those weird social scenes between ex lovers and the groups that surround them?  This is kind of the setting but the emotional content is much deeper than that and much more mature of experienced in terms of the way in which feelings are described.   A lot of us have been in passionate but soul draining relationships and some of us have confused passion for the things that surround a relationship with the love of the person in it.  This story takes all those kinds of things into account.  I love the title by the way.

Royce Ratterman’s story was a song that is written in the form of a short story.  I think that the anonymous comment that was posted in response to the story touches on some of the feeling it evoked for me. “This story I liked very much, I somehow pictured my own mom & dad in the story, they never make it to 50, but they still had each other. . . Thanks for a great story and memory.”

“Music to Eat By” by Gigi Devault was a great little vignette by Devault set in a foreign land during the wars.  I always started thinking in sepia tone when I read her stories.  It’s fun that she takes us to distant times and places.

Read them all here:

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