Flash Fiction: A Million Times

You’ve heard this one a million times. A girl is standing on the corner in the East Village with her French bulldog, Lola. The girl is waiting for the light to turn so she can cross the street, but this guy comes along in Italian loafers and the bulldog piddles on the loafers. I know, it’s cliché.

As you’d expect, Italian loafers takes the girl to small claims court because the shoes are ruined. He doesn’t care that she apologizes umpteen times, or that Lola is old and having bladder problems. The small claims court judge rules in favor of Italian loafers because an owner should be able to control their animal.

But here’s where things get interesting.

Turns out, by some twist of fate, the girl runs into the judge in the courthouse hallway after the proceedings. I think he was on his way to the men’s room (speaking of bladders) and she walked up to ask him a question. She was attracted to the judge, which is odd since he ruled against her. Didn’t matter.

The judge considered whether or not he’d ask the girl on a date. He decided it was a bad idea. He imagined that one boomeranging on him. Not on the first or second dates, but later, after they’d slept together a few times. He knew she’d throw the Italian loafers ruling in his face. He didn’t want to take the chance, even though the girl was cute and he’d been divorced a few years. It wasn’t necessarily easy to keep doing the dating thing.

Meanwhile, the Italian loafers guy made out like a bandit, but the last laugh was on him because after he left the courthouse, he got hit by a bike messenger. Yep. He wound up in the hospital with a severe concussion. Clearly, the guy didn’t pay enough attention on the street. In Manhattan you need to be on your toes, not checking Facebook every five seconds; but this guy was looking at his phone and sustained a head trauma.

It’s just how it happened. What can you do?

All of this is rote. It’s a story we’ve been told so frequently we nod as we hear the part about the head trauma. It’s expected you’re not going to like Italian loafers guy. First, he’s walking around Manhattan in an expensive pair of shoes, then, on top of that, he takes the girl to court. And even though his shoes got ruined, and he did nothing but stand on a street corner, the reader expects the writer to exact retribution against the guy for not accepting the girl’s apology. Besides, everybody loves a French bulldog named Lola. Let’s face it, that’s not working in the guy’s favor.

But, the thing is, the writer never explained that those shoes were given to him by his girlfriend as a college graduation gift. A girl he later married. The guy was distracted by his phone because he’d been waiting for a text from his wife. She was going into labor any second with their first kid. He was checking the phone for incoming texts, just like he’d been doing every five minutes because he was a nervous father-to-be.

So, there’s an unresolvable conflict. Now the reader could like the guy, because he’s going to be a dad and it seems like he got the raw end of the deal with the ruined shoes. And he wound up in the hospital and missed the birth of his first, and what would turn out to be, his only child. The guy seems like a regular saint, right?

What’s a reader to do?

Really, all of this is proof you can’t trust writers. I’m not talking about me, because I’m the narrator. I’m reliable. I’ve been telling you nothing but the truth from the get go. But those writers, they’re a crafty bunch. They split the road, then split it again and take not just the path less traveled, they create a new road no one saw before. They like tricking the reader that way, and somehow, the reader likes it.

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