Pamela Painter ~ When Flashers Meet

I peer up and down the cere­al aisle at Piggly Wiggly to make sure I’m alone.  Then I lift down the oblong box of Corn Flakes and tuck its noisy con­tents deep inside the pock­et of my late husband’s trench coat.  Dumb word “late.” My old man used this trench coat for our fifty years of mar­ried life before he couldn’t eat steak or ribs no more, nev­er mind this here cere­al.  Some idiot prob­a­bly won­ders ‘who steals cere­al?’  Someone down and out like me. That’s who.  Special K. Rice Krispies.  Cheerios.  Wheaties.  Milk turns it into a sog­gy soup easy on my dentures.

I steer my emp­ty cart toward the dairy aisle when my bum knee knocks the damn box.  I tell it “just you shush” as a pis­sy-look­ing dude in a Cowboys’ jack­et wheels his cart around the cor­ner.  He squints and says, “Are you talk­ing to me?”  I fig­ure his sor­ry day needs a sur­prise.  I swing open my old man’s coat and flash my Corn Flakes at him.

His cart comes to a full stop.  He peers around as if to say, “Do you see what I see?”  Then I note the pock­et of his Cowboys’ jack­et has a sus­pi­cious sag­ging lump. Aha.

He catch­es me eye­ing it, so he flash­es his jack­et full on.   Clearly a fat chick­en is roost­ing in his right inside pock­et.  His beard can’t hide his grin.  I huff, “damn chick­ens weigh too much for me.”  He thinks on this, then he says, “What do you want?  I got anoth­er pock­et.   Meat depart­ment maybe.”

I nod, swing my cart around and head for meat.  Red meat.  I hear his cart fol­low­ing me.  Oh glo­ry.  It’s been years since a brisket bub­bled in my old oven.  Slathered in sliced onions.   I choose a big, fat slab and slide it for­ward. We exchange nods, then I wheel away to pro­duce to find four onions.  When he catch­es up to me near check-out, both his pock­ets are sag­ging now.  We check­out in dif­fer­ent lanes as if we don’t know each oth­er.  I pay for one onion and keep the oth­er three qui­et in my sec­ond pock­et.  He buys a quart of chick­en broth.

We meet out­side near his bat­tered motor­cy­cle.  He trans­fers his chick­en to a tat­tered sad­dle pouch and pulls out a Piggly Wiggly bag to make the brisket easy for me to car­ry home.  I give him an onion.  “Well,” he says.  “Well,” I say.  We aren’t part­ners.  We aren’t any­thing.  But we both find it hard to say goodbye.


Pamela Painter is the award-win­ning author of five sto­ry col­lec­tions. Her sto­ries have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Flash Boulevard, Harper’s, JMWW, Smokelong Quarterly, Three Penny Review, and Vestal Review among oth­ers, and in the antholo­gies Sudden Fiction, Flash Fiction, and recent­ly in Flash Fiction America, Best Microfiction of 2023, and Best Small Fictions 2023. Painter’s sto­ries have received three Pushcart Prizes and have been staged by Word Theatre in LA, London and NYC.  Her sto­ry “Doors” has just been made into a short film.