Ralph is picking fruit flies from his wine, the red one that tastes like cupcakes. His weird long pinky nail is a scoop. At least they died happy, he says. We are in that space we love to be together, warm, and a little boozy. We laugh in each other’s company more than two sad and anxious people have any right. Ralph throws his head back, turns all teeth, and his chuckle is baritone. I crack up like a little girl. Even so, I am overbearing and mothering but that’s just how much I love. Once I wanted to save him from a crush and that other friend’s darkness, had to pull back, let him go and find out on his own, since he was a grown man. Almost old enough to be my father. We loved to sit at the corner end of a crowded bar, slowly stewing over craft beer and Yahtzee. We would make up stories about the people around us, imagining their lives. Once, near the end of a game, I crossed out my Yahtzee. Odds were, I wouldn’t need it. My next roll was five fives in one toss. That’s how my luck alwayswas, epic and useless. Ralph had his roadblocks too. The way he let things go by when he really wanted to be a part of them, the way he couldn’t say no to people if he might hurt them. We commiserated over how long it had been since we’d written any good poetry, and over how long it had been since either of us had really been in love. That was how it came about, the night of the cupcakes, our creative collaboration. We were going to write a book of poems about Jennifer Tilly! It would be called Poker Face. Jennifer was everything I wanted to be, the woman who would play me in my biopic. Ralph’s character would be an Oscar-worthy role, of course, a performance by Anthony Hopkins or Ian McKellen. I just wanted Jennifer, quirky, with heroic cleavage, the card-shark brains behind boobs any sane woman would envy. I’d dreamed of being a chess genius when I was small, before it was apparent I wouldn’t even graduate high school because of the math. Jennifer ditched her breathless brunette acting roles for the big-time world of poker championships, turning the boys to dust. Ralph took a pen in hand. We eagerly jotted down notes on our future literary masterpiece, even though it would never materialize. Oh, Jennifer, your radiant areolas, Ralph pined and pantomimed in the air, wriggling his hands. Then, that shock of silver tossed back, those white teeth wide. I suggested haikus about nipples. Our work on the male and female gaze would be ground-breaking, meteoric. We had many brave ideas! We would write odes to Jennifer’s pale decolletage, write about Jennifer’s cupid’s bow. We would find old paintings about playing cards, weave them like a tapestry against stories of our most contemporary goddess. Jennifer Tilly, curvy, fifty, sharp and bubbly, bride of lucky. How I wanted to be her. How I loved Ralph most of anyone, because he said I already was. Once in Manitoba I watched Ralph tilt his camera at the sky, capture the clouds falling into the marsh where we were wandering far from the car. How he held the whole wide world inside his lens. There were times he turned his camera back on me, like when I torched all my paintings in his backyard. It was the kind liberation ceremony only Ralph would understand. You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em…We never did write that book of Tilly. This is our sign of friendship: Jennifer, in a wrap dress, breasts defying gravity and time. And those soused fruit flies scattered at the side of his napkin, beside two olive pits, so happy to be drowned.
Lorette C. Luzajic is the founder and editor of The Ekphrastic Review, a journal devoted entirely to literature inspired by visual art. She earned a degree in journalism from Ryerson University in Canada, but went on to pursue a more creative path. Her prose poetry and small fictions have been published widely, including Flash Boulevard, Bright Flash Review, Free Flash Fiction, Brilliant Flash Fiction, New Flash Fiction, L.A. Cultural Weekly, South Florida Poetry Journal, Indelible, Poemeleon, Gyroscope Review, and more. She has been nominated for several Best of Net and Pushcart prizes. Her flash story recently won first place in a contest at Macqueen’s Quinterly. Lorette’s most recent book, Pretty Time Machine, is ekphrastic, and she is at work completing another collection of prose poems and small stories that respond to art. Lorette is also an award-winning visual artist with collectors in 25 countries from Estonia to Qatar. Visit her at www.mixedupmedia.ca or www.ekphrastic.net.