When Breath Drops by Louella Lester

His asthma takes his breath away, the way her beauty took it away the first time he saw her at the community centre dance, forty-five years ago. Both situations equally nerve racking. 

They stop to rest at a bench near the river bank and the dog squeezes in between them, almost pushes Lottie over the side, rests his head on Ronald’s knee. Stays put even though his leash now snakes loose on the grass beside him, allowing him to run free if he wants.

Ronald was surprised when Lottie had donned a kerchief and joined him and the dog for their morning walk, such a change in their routine. She said she wanted to talk, something they never seem to do much anymore. Now she stands up and paces in front of him. The dog stays put, wary eyes moving back and forth along with her movement.

“Ronald, it’s not working for me anymore.”

“What’s not working?” His breath is not calming like it should have by now.

“This marriage. I’m sorry…I just can’t…I’m sorry.”

“What is it? Tell me.” He breathes in through his mouth and the dog nudges his hand.

“I’ve met someone…who makes me feel alive again.”

“When…uhhh…uhhh.” One hand presses his chest, as he fumbles in his coat pocket with the other. His puffer falls out, bumps his knee and drops to the ground at Lottie’s feet. Ronald collapses back against the bench. 

The dog scrambles down. Noses the puffer. Pokes at Lottie’s leg. 

Lottie sees the puffer. Looks up at Ronald’s face—it’s blue as the sky. Hesitates. 

The dog claws at her foot.

Lottie kicks the puffer to the river’s edge.

The dog races forward. Mouths the puffer in time. Turns back.

Lottie grabs at the dog’s jaw. 

The dog holds firm. 

Lottie tries again.

The dog lunges. Shoves her over the river bank. Carries the puffer back to Ronald.

Louella Lester is a writer/photographer in Winnipeg, Canada. Her Flash-CNF book is Glass Bricks (At Bay Press, April 2021). Her work has appeared/is forthcoming in New Flash Fiction Review, Cleaver, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Litro, Five Minutes, The Drabble, SoFloPoJo, Dribble Drabble, Grey Sparrow Journal, Reflex Fiction.