"...and I stretched out my legs and studied the ants in the dirt. The different reds and browns. Their bodies, tiny and large all at once."
Paddle Boats is a piece of flash fiction I wrote in 2017. It was orginally published in Verity La.
Read Paddle Boats below.
We sat in a paddle boat and ate cheese sandwiches. The water swirled slowly around us.
This is nice, you said, and it was nice.
The rain had held off, just like we hoped, and the clouds were merely white smudges in the sky. When we finished eating, you took my hand and smiled at me with your eyes.
I love you, you said.
You waited for a response, clicking your fingers quickly. I watched a duck swim past our boat, making gentle movements in the water.
Please, you said, say something.
I mumbled, about baked beans and tinned sausages.
Back at the tent, your hands grappled with the tin kettle and I stretched out my legs and studied the ants in the dirt. The different reds and browns. Their bodies, tiny and large all at once.
Why don’t you love me, you asked, pushing a knife into a jar of peanut butter, breaking a piece of white bread in half.
I watched you eat, licking your lips, smacking them together, laying the knife down slowly. I shook my head. Spread my fingers out, pushed them into the dirt. Ants scattered, dancing over my knuckles.
You asked me again, your voice stretching. I wondered aloud if we’d see a wombat, snuffling round the back of our tent, near where we’d parked the car, near where our rain jackets hung off the side view mirrors.
Please. I dangled a tea bag up and down and looked back out towards the water, where swans were gliding.
Please. Your voice was croaky, swollen, stuffed full of a sunset that would never rise.
Please, you said again, the word beginning to sound like something other than language.
And then, because I’m weak, or something very close to it, I said I love you too, and you were radiant. We drove home together, through the darkness, and it started to rain a little. I leant my head against the window and you talked a lot, flapping your hands when they weren’t on the wheel. I listened and said yes at all the right moments. Because there were things at yours of mine, and it felt easier than saying goodbye.