For tonight’s story, the challenge was to use at least 20 unique words beginning with “sw.” And you know, I severely overestimated the number of these words in the English language. Sure, there were quite a few on the list that didn’t get incorporated into this story. But I wrote this sober and I think using the words swastika, Swahili, swagger, switchblade, and swashbuckler in a flash fiction story requires at least two decently-sized cocktails.
So, enjoy this not-as-weird-as-it-could-have-been story.
“This is a swamp,” I declare.
“It’s a pond,” Keith contests.
I’ve been swindled. Lured here by a dolt who doesn’t know the difference between a swan and a duck or a swamp and a pond. I turn my head away and mouth a string of swear words. When I turn back, Keith is swatting at the bugs dancing around his head like confetti.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” he asks. “You look disappointed.”
I swallow my words before they have a chance to escape my mouth. At least he’s trying. My sister told me I should remind myself of that every time I start to swell up with defeat.
For the truthful half of my response I say, “Just a little uncomfortable.” For the dishonest half, I tell him, “Sweaty and a bit sticky, is all.” The summer heat, sweltering as it is, bothers me very little.
Keith nods his head toward the swamp. “A swim will fix that,” he chuckles.
Beside us, a swarm of mosquitos floats through the trees, swerving around the old, fissured trunks. They come to a steady swirl around my face, creating a veil that softens the anger in my eyes. I try to remember the old Keith. I yearn for the days before the switch was flipped and our marriage faded to black.
I’d begged him for a trip to Sweden. I swore to myself if Sweden didn’t happen, neither would the rest of our lives together. For the weeks leading up to our anniversary, he was a gentleman. Sweeter than I’d ever known. He took me ballroom dancing. I’d always wanted to go, to entwine our bodies and sway, carefree, through the openness together.
What I thought would be Sweden turned out to be a cabin at Swordfish Pond. For our 25th wedding anniversary, we’re trapped in a net of insects next to a swamp.
Keith sweeps a strange blue fly off of my tank top. It’s the tank top I spent hours choosing. I spent an entire afternoon at the mall. Finding it was like winning a sweepstakes. It was a prize. It was perfect for this day.
“I think I’d like to lie down for a while. You know, relax,” I tell Keith. He doesn’t follow me to the cabin; he knows better. As I rest my head on a thin, musty pillow, I wonder if Keith is actually the same old Keith, and I’ve simply forgotten the old me.