In the Den (Flash Fiction)

Bob pulled to the curb and checked his phone. He squinted through the passenger window to try and check the address. He couldn’t make out the numbers in the darkness. “GPS says this is the spot,” he said to himself. He looked around. Lining both sides of the street were four minivans and three SUVs. “Yup,” he said, opening the door. “This is the spot.” He navigated a pebbled walkway that cut through a manicured lawn. Solar powered lights guided him along. He rang the bell and a wretched version of Amazing Grace began to play.

The door cracked open. “Yes?” she said.

“Hi. I’m Bob. I’m here in place of Susanne.”

She hesitated and reduced the open crack to a sliver. “In place for what?”

Bob looked around for the house numbers, but he didn’t see any. “Uh, the mother’s meet. I’m sorry, is this the wrong house?”

The door opened slowly. He heard the sound of heavy female conversation. “Susanne, you said?”

“Yes.” He rubbed at his head. “Sorry. I thought you knew.”

She opened the door fully and put her hand on her hip. “You’re late.” She stepped aside and let him in. She led him down a hallway and into the den.

When they entered the room, the conversation stopped. “Everyone, this is Bob. Bob, this is everyone,” she said. She immediately took a seat on the sofa beside two other women. They sipped at their tea. No one said hello. “Who is Bob?” asked a quiet voice in the corner.

“Oh. I’m here in place of Susanne,” he said. “She’s at her mother’s. She couldn’t make it.” A dozen versions of heavy eye shadow and thick red lipstick stared back in silence. Bob sat down in the last remaining seat. What it had in gaudy appearance, it lacked in comfort.

The woman who answered the door stared at him. “Susanne is in charge of cookies.”

“Oh,” Bob said. The room waited for an explanation.

“Did you bring cookies?” she asked.

“No,” he said, fiddling with his hands.

“Can you even make cookies?” another woman asked.

“No,” he said, “but I can sure eat ’em!” He smiled and slapped his generous belly. No one laughed.

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