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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 20: 15 Sept. 2023
Flash Fiction: 599 words
One-Sentence Story
By Lynn Mundell



Throughout her life she’d had trouble keeping friends: “Some people have a talent for friendship,” her mother would say, looking at her and then pointedly trailing off—her mother, who alienated the classroom moms, neighbor women, even Ruth the postal carrier, who eventually dumped their mail on the lawn, where letters grew damp weeping inside their envelopes; some of her own friends left quickly, a dropped cup shattering in the sink, like Sara, her best friend until junior year when she’d asked to borrow the silver boots for a party where Matt Barmer would be but who, once denied the boots, stopped speaking to her, never realizing that she already had the coveted party invitation, as well as Matt Barmer, and therefore would be taking the only remarkable thing remaining, while other friends left imperceptibly, like treasured possessions eventually forgotten and then one day keenly missed, as was the case with her former office mate Sandy, who handled the hardest customer complaints (uncomplainingly) and, once hired away to a better job, issued invitations to swap meets and movies, until one day she realized she’d not heard from Sandy in a year, and then she felt it was too late, that it was clear she’d been an unworthy friend to have always said she was too busy when truthfully she’d been quite the opposite, too lazy, something Mother said, as well as adding that Sandy was a goody-goody; she’d lost too many friends that way—from their just disappearing—then she’d spend nights awake reviewing their friendships, haunted by the ways she suspected but wasn’t positive she was at fault: talking about herself too much (Renee), giving unsolicited advice (Leslie), critiquing a mutual friend (Beth), forgetting too many times to pick up the tab (Stacy)—these were just guesses, though—never would a friend simply tell her; only her sister, her first, most constant friend, pointed out occasions when she was selfish or judgmental, the repetition of these charges leading her to understand that they were the root cause of her failed friendships, so then she took to saying, “You have the last piece!” and “Don’t you look nice in stripes!” to which her sister finally said she was insincere, at which point she told her sister—who had not sought feedback and being very sensitive had never responded well to it—that she was really the overly critical one, and then they didn’t speak for five weeks, until Mother, at a niece’s wedding reception, loudly said sister was much too old to line up to catch the bouquet, but before sister could retreat in tears, she (the eldest) stood next to her and while neither caught the flowers, they danced with each other the rest of the afternoon, because the truth was that they belonged together; for years they’d gone to the county fair just to ride the Ferris wheel, tried on bathing suits in the same changing rooms (something they’d never do alone or with another), discussed in detail childhood cats long gone, shown up unannounced to sympathize over another failed love affair; perhaps because they’d spent a lifetime sharing a bathtub, a bedroom, the back seat of the family station wagon, the hallway where their school portraits rested side by side to ever be apart, each holding Mother’s hands as she died, as though helping her across the street to heaven, and her later thinking that sometimes you really only need one friend, as she and her sister, now both old themselves, navigated a super store, one pushing the cart, the other clinging to its side.



Publisher’s Note:

For more about one-sentence stories, see The Sentence and the Sentence Story by Grant Faulkner (co-founder of 100 Word Story), “Craft Capsule 157” in Poets & Writers (6 March 2023).

Lynn Mundell
Issue 20 (September 2023)

is editor of Centaur (a literary journal dedicated to hybrid writing) and co-founder of 100 Word Story. Her writing has been published in Booth, Wigleaf, Best Microfiction, and elsewhere. Lynn’s chapbook Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us was published by Yemassee in 2022. She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Author’s website: http://lynnmundell.com/

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

“Numbering, Headings, Weird Animal Facts”: Gay Degani Interviews Lynn Mundell, author of Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us in Heavy Feather Review (2 June 2022)

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