Friday Flash: OMG at Barnes & Noble

© Olivia Tejeda

“Oh my God,” Fredrika’s husband gasped as she approached the table where he sat reading “The Portable Jung” at the Barnes & Noble cafe.

“What’s wrong with this?” she asked holding out the copy of Oprah she brought back with her.

Her husband looked up, eyes only, over the top of his glasses.  He said nothing and went back to reading.

She leaned in and said through tight lips and a clenched jaw, “I asked you if there’s something wrong with this.”

No response.

“Edward!” Louder this time.

Edward closed the book and slid his glasses down.  He pondered the pinched looking woman standing in front of him as he stroked his short salt and pepper beard.

“Can I … help you?” he said.

“Why did you say ‘Oh my God?’ ”

“You are truly pathetic.”

“Wrong again, Edward,” she said, pointing a sharp finger at him.  “You are an impotent troll.”

Fredrika sat down and noticed the woman at the next table, caught mid-sip and still staring, surprised and embarrassed by their candid contempt.  Fredrika smiled and began flipping the pages of the magazine.

Flip.  Flip, flip.  Flip.

“Did I do something?” she said.  “Is that why you said ‘Oh my God?’ ”

Edward sighed. “Really, Fredrika? Really?”

“Just tell me.”

“I’m reading.”

Flip, flip, flip.

“Want pizza for dinner?” she asked.

Edward grunted.

“Chinese? You want Chinese?”

Silence.

She flipped more pages.

“We can have dinner with the Crandalls.  You like the Crandalls.”

“Fredrika,” Edward said.

“Hmm?”

“Fredrika,” he said

“Edward,” she said.

“Fredrika,” he said.

“What?” she hissed.

“Can I tell you what I want?”

She sat mute.

“I want you to shut up,” he said.  “For one minute of one day in the entirety of your life, I want you to shut your mouth and be silent.”   Then he went back to reading.

Fredrika huffed and straightened her posture.

Flip.  Flip, flip.

After flipping the last of the pages, she took a deep breath and rubbed her forehead.

Edward looked up.  “Are you all right?” he asked.

“My contacts are bothering me.”

“Do you want to leave?”

“I hate to disturb your book, but yes, yes, I think so.”

He closed the book and stood up.

“Here,” he said reaching out.  “Give me your magazine.  I’ll put it away for you.”

When he returned, he took her hand and they walked together to the exit.

Thank you for reading.  To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter or visit Mad Utopia.
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23 thoughts on “Friday Flash: OMG at Barnes & Noble

  1. You had me rolling on the floor with this one. I KNOW couples like this. My grandparents. Bicker over the cribbage board, the tv, the radio station, which plates to set, then hold hands while walking down the road. You nailed the relationship of love. Peace…

  2. With the exception of two or three remarkable marriages I have witnessed along the way, sounds like almost every married couple on the planet, once you strip away the surface veneer. Interesting & sad, all at once.

    Thanks!

  3. OMG! I know people like this.

    They came to dinner and didn’t eat a bite because they were on a diet! And bickered throughout the evening.

    They love each other madly!

    Very enjoyable, Olivia. 🙂

  4. In my view, they don’t love each other madly at all.

    They tolerate each other. They’re all each other has. They each dream of what could have been …. what should have been.

    And walk away holding each other’s hand. Because they’re all each other has.

    Perry

  5. Having had to put up with parents whose marriage was exactly like that, I’m surprised I ever got married! I did wait till age 34 though…maybe 15 years of living away from my folks lessened the horror of the memory 🙂

    Very funny and semi-sad piece here, Olivia

  6. Thanks for the comments. Like Eric, I couldn’t survive in a relationship like this, but for some people it’s so familiar they can’t function otherwise. To those folks, I say … get help!

    Writing this I was reminded of my grandparents, who weren’t as hateful as these two, but they fought constantly. A few months after my grandfather died, my grandmother said, “He was a son of a bitch, but I miss him so much.” She died shortly after that.”

    I also thought of George and Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, people so damaged and filled with animosity that they can’t keep it to themselves. I shiver at the thought! ~ Olivia

  7. Thanks for your comment, Olivia.

    Obviously good writing leaves some things open to subjective interpretation and it’s interesting how some readers have found a loving relationship lurking underneath and others anything but.

    I see sadness, lost dreams, and futility. But it’s the best these two – and so many others – will ever have. So there is also acceptance.

    Perry

  8. As Michael said Olivia, you nailed it. I could feel the tension and felt so sorry for that poor woman who had to witness the scene. Perfect dialouge.

  9. Very thought-provoking, Olivia. There truly *are* people who thrive on conflict – their lives would be empty without the constant back-and-forth. I think the majority of these couples are, as Perry said, tolerating each other.

  10. I had to read a story with this title. It was fantastic!

    Despite the argument in the comments here, this is the perfect, honest relationship. The bickering and insults mean the two can be one hundred percent themselves, but are caring enough to notice even the slightest nuance of discomfort in each other, then react in a loving, affectionate manner.

    Now, I’m not sure if Olivia or Perry wrote this piece, but you’ve got the #fridayflash community talking, so kudos.

  11. It’s odd that You compare this to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf since that work is extraordinarily bitter. Your flash isn’t nearly so, and the ambiguity that you wrote into it encourages these contradictory readings. She’s driving him crazy and he wants her to shut up, yet he’s remarkably astute at recognizing when something is wrong and puts his desire to be left alone and read aside. That’s how it comes across to me.

    It’s also fun to see readers reacting as if these characters are real.

  12. Yes, I agree, Mark, I love the conversation this has started. It seems there are three sides… love, hate, toleration. Very interesting. A post by Tony Noland suggests the exercise of writing from each characters POV. I think this is a good story to do that with. Husband, wife, innocent bystander.

  13. This sounds like my in-laws. I felt like i was one of the people sat at a nearby table watching all this unfold. I felt guilty yet utterly entertained. 🙂

  14. OMG Have you been spying on my parents? This is amazingly accurate and very funny. Reminds me a little of the relationship in that movie About Schmidt. Well done!

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