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She said she was going to Irkutsk.

He didn’t believe her.

She said she wanted to travel, to find something new, to understand the world a little better.

After 27 years of marriage, he knew when she was lying.

She went anyway.

The suit he wore to the wedding was still in the closet, shoved way to the back. He hadn’t had it out for years, even though he used to wear it for other formal occasions. But his friends were having funerals instead of weddings, and the two of them hadn’t been invited to a formal party in… he couldn’t remember how long. It wasn’t that nice of a suit anyway.

He pulled it out, stripped off his sweatshirt and jeans and left them in a pile on the floor. She hated when he did that, but her opinion didn’t matter any more. The silk shirt fit nicely–it was considerably newer than the suit. He knotted a cashmere tie over it, standing in the middle of the room in shirt and socks and boxers, eyes closed as his fingers manipulated the soft dark wool. When they got married, they didn’t have much money. The shirt and tie he wore then were polyester or something else cheap. They didn’t care then. The two of them were so in love that they would have gotten married in burlap sacks, just for the ecstasy of saying “husband and wife.”


The jacket hung off his shoulders like a worn tablecloth. He’d lost weight since those days, turning into a scrawny old man. Not that he was all that old, of course, but today he felt ancient. He spun before the mirror, watching the fabric sag and ripple. Something interfered with the drape of the front pocket. He pulled out an old gift card, the coffee chain named on it long defunct. Nobody drank coffee anymore.

He skipped the shoes, padding down the carpeted hall and into the living room in his stockinged feet. Her favorite painting, “A Mysterious Stranger,” hung in the hall. It would be childish to turn it to face the wall. After so long, he barely saw it, never looked at it. A shadowy figure stood by a table, the oil lamp sitting on it providing the only illumination. The figure held something aloft. He’d always thought it might be an astrolabe, but he didn’t know what one of those was exactly. She’d tried to explain the symbolism to him once, but he still didn’t understand what the painting meant, or why she was so fascinated by the vaguely menacing form.

Her orchid still sat on the table, flowers wilting but not gone. He lined a row of shot glasses up before it, their edges precisely aligned with the bright woven runner. One shot from each bottle in the liquor cabinet: whiskey, gin, absinthe, vodka, catching the light in multicolored array.

He picked up a glass, turned it between his fingers admiring the play of light through the liquid and the glass. Contemplating what would happen if he tossed it back, tossed them all back one after the other. He set the glass down slowly, gently, back into its careful alignment with its neighbors.

He imagined sweeping them all off the table, scattering shards everywhere, the murky swirl of the mixing liquors. He imagined calling his travel agent and booking a ticket to Siberia to find her. He envisioned himself throwing the mysterious stranger and his astrolabe off the balcony, watching it sail down the stories and crash in the street, where it would be pulverized by a passing truck. He pictured the rest of his life without her, so unlike anything he’d ever imagined, even for a moment.


Friday flash… on Saturday!

Tonight’s twitter suggestions:

@qitou Cashmere and silk
@Calvin_cat “He could still get into the suit he was wore at his wedding 27 years ago, but you wouldn’t say it still fit him”.
@Marjorie73 a Mysterious Stranger. And some gin
@randomSpammer A Starbucks gift card
@fadeaccompli a dose of absinthe.
@notanyani astrolabe, orchids
@quasigeo Irkutsk

(I collect suggestions, then spend no more than an hour writing a story that incorporates all of them: no time for planning, no time for editing. This one took me right up to the wire.)


  1. Notanyani says:

    So glad I made your deadline. 🙂

  2. Sarah says:

    The more the merrier, right? 🙂