Glen Pourciau ~ Two Short Stories


Eight of us at a din­ner par­ty, four cou­ples, noth­ing left to eat but dessert. Cathy, one of our hosts, has ordered a Bundt cake dec­o­rat­ed with a large frost­ing flower and petals from a local bak­ery, and our friend Ruth vol­un­teers to cut it, sup­pos­ed­ly to help her. The plates are stacked on the side table beside the cake, all she has to do is slice and serve. She presents our pieces while Cathy is up get­ting a fresh bot­tle of red wine. Returning, Cathy puts the opened wine bot­tle down and low­ers her eyes to her piece of cake.

This is the thinnest slice of cake I’ve seen in my life.”

It’s thick enough,” Ruth replies.

None of us com­ment, but our slices are so thin we can see through the cake. Ruth has a daugh­ter who strug­gles with her weight, it occurs to me, and her hus­band, who is sit­ting at the table and is a leg­endary con­sumer of baked goods, choos­es not to strug­gle with his. My hus­band, Ross, takes a deep breath, some­thing he reg­u­lar­ly does when he’s sup­press­ing a wisecrack.

Cathy doesn’t argue. She picks up her plate, steps toward the cake and cuts her­self two nor­mal slices. She lay­ers them on her plate and walks back to her chair.

Anyone else need cake reme­di­a­tion?” she asks.

I raise my plate right away. “One piece, please.”

No one else speaks up. The Robertsons, sit­ting across from me, seem tempt­ed but elect to remain neu­tral. Cathy takes my plate and cuts me a nor­mal slice.

What’s the point of serv­ing a cake if we’re afraid to eat it?” she asks.

I’m hap­py with my slice,” Ruth says.

Before she sits, Cathy shifts one of her slices to her husband’s plate. He thanks her and says he’ll be able to taste this one better.

Ross smacks his lips, yearn­ing for more cake. I stare at him. He ris­es and cuts him­self a thick slice.

This is good cake,” he com­ments, eat­ing it as he returns to the table.

Silence. Am I the only one still think­ing of get­ting more cake? Is my intent to take revenge on Ruth? I imag­ine groan­ing with plea­sure as I eat it.

I look around the table. Cathy’s eyes are on the cake. No one moves.



Vivian called to let me know she was on her way home with the paint­ing. She’d honk her horn and I could come out and car­ry it into the house. She’d spent all after­noon with a group of her school-days girl­friends. One of them, Liz, had moved into a house with less wall space and couldn’t hang all the art she’d had in her pre­vi­ous house. She’d decid­ed to give Viv an oil paint­ing of a big red con­vert­ible on a beach­side road. It remind­ed her of when they were teenagers and Viv had bor­rowed her mother’s con­vert­ible to dri­ve Liz and oth­er friends up and down the coast. The artist, Antonia, was one of those friends. Before pass­ing the paint­ing to Viv, Liz want­ed to bring back shared mem­o­ries by show­ing it to the group.

I heard the horn and went out to the garage. I waved at Viv and leaned into the car for the painting.

It’s a strik­ing image,” I said.

I need to talk to you as soon as we get in,” she said.

She went straight to the bed and stretched out, prop­ping her­self up with a cou­ple of pil­lows, puff­ing. I sat at the oppo­site end of the bed.

I got there a lit­tle after most of them. Liz had leaned the paint­ing against a wall and I wasn’t there to hear what they said about it. Antonia was two hours late, nor­mal for her. She didn’t know the paint­ing was com­ing, none of them did except me. Her mouth opened when she saw it. She start­ed talk­ing to Liz, and I eaves­dropped. She thought about the paint­ing all the time, she said, her hands over her heart. She doesn’t paint that way any­more, doesn’t use oils. She told Liz the paint­ing was one of her favorites and she want­ed it.”

Did Liz buy it from her, decades ago?”

Yes, she did. Liz told Antonia she want­ed me to have it because of our dri­ves on the beach. Antonia said the car in the paint­ing was not the one I drove but a red con­vert­ible a neigh­bor of hers had. I think she made that up to per­suade Liz to give it to her.”

What did Liz say?”

She was caught off guard. I didn’t hear every word, but I heard her say she’d told me I could have it. Antonia kept eye­ing the paint­ing from dif­fer­ent angles. I went to her and we had a brief con­ver­sa­tion. She sug­gest­ed I keep it a few months and then she’d have it for a few months. Now I’m wor­ried that if I let her have it she won’t give it back. She’s done things like that. She gave a friend one of her bracelets and when they had a falling out she demand­ed the friend return it. I could tell you oth­ers. What do you think?”

I think it belonged to Liz and she gave it to you.”

I’ll text Liz and ask what she said.”

She got up and sent the text. We then hung the pic­ture near the bot­tom of the stair­way so view­ers would face it on the first two steps before turn­ing left to go up.

It looks like it was born there,” Viv said. “On the way home I was wor­ried the sight of it would make me mad, but now I think it would make me mad­der if she took it away.”

The car is vivid in the light.”

Here’s Liz’s answer. She says she didn’t tell Antonia she could have the paint­ing and she has no claim to it.”

She’s not con­tra­dict­ing you.”

I’m lock­ing Antonia out of the car.”


Glen Pourciau’s fourth sto­ry col­lec­tion will be pub­lished in 2025 by Four Way Books. His sto­ries have been pub­lished by AGNI Online, Epoch, New England Review, New World Writing Quarterly, The Paris Review, Post Road, Witness, and others.