The post a few weeks ago about short fiction reminded me of the (very few) short pieces I have written over the years. For some reason they’re not posted here, but they really should be. Here’s one.


Phyllis Carbonieri looked around her bedroom. The most irritating thing in it was probably the bright sunlight streaming in through the two windows, but there were other annoying things as well.

Phyllis Carbonieri Fleming worked for the United States Government, and that was what the government called her: Phyllis Carbonieri Fleming.

They used to call her Mrs. Robert Fleming as well, but at least they had stopped that. The gas company called her Mr. Phillip Carbon, and she’d given up arguing with them about it.

The phone company didn’t know she existed. Neither did the State Department, the state government, The Trilateral Commission, Steven Spielberg or the readers of the National Enquirer. Yet.

The people closest to her knew her, variously, as “Mom,” “my sister the car,” “Mother!” “Desiree,” and “that fucking bitch who ruined my life.”

Okay, nobody actually called her Desiree, but she’d always secretly wondered what it would feel like if they did.

Once she’s been on the corner in front of her office and she’d heard someone yell “Desiree!” She had turned so fast that the scoop of Heavenly Hash ice cream that she’d been licking, waiting for it to cool, jumped right off the top of the cone where it had been sitting and into the pocket of her blouse.

She was not cheered that afternoon at work, sweating as she wore her sweater buttoned over the stained blouse, when the guy who sat at the desk next to hers pointed out that this was contrary to the laws of physics.

But, in any case, it had only been a small woman calling her (large) poodle.

Phyllis Carbonieri Fleming owned a gun. She had never fired it, but the man she had purchased it from had assured her that it would work perfectly, first time and every time.

She had wondered where to hide it. Her desk was out of the question, her husband was always rooting around there looking for money.

She thought of her bureau, but increasingly she had the feeling that somebody else poked around in among her underwear from time to time.

She finally settled on the big hamper in the basement, next to the washer/dryer.

At work she sat quietly at her desk. Her phone was blinking. She realized she had forgotten how to retrieve her voicemail. She looked at the computer screen, where a small icon of an envelope blinked in the corner of her screen. She wondered when she had last checked her e-mail. She opened the center drawer of her desk and pulled out the sheet of paper she kept because it reminded her what exactly it was that her department did.

The phone rang and on impulse she decided to answer it. It was her sister. Another anecdote about what an asshole one of her ex-husbands was. Phyllis wished she had a piece of paper to remind her how many times her sister had been married, and why.

Dinner was done. Her husband was lying on the couch. She was doing the dishes. There was a lot of screaming from upstairs, which she figured was probably the kids.

She looked out over the lawn and knew what she had to do. This couldn’t go on another day.

She went down to the basement, hearing the stairs creak for the last time. Feeling along the worn wood until she found the light switch. Down here was the way out. One quick explosion, and it would all be over.

She ran her fingers along its smooth surface, the metal dull and slightly oily. She took hold of the handle with sudden determination and pulled up the cockpit cover. She climbed in.

Of course, there’s no way to launch a space ship from the basement of a suburban house without destroying the house, but at the moment this wasn’t that much of a concern to her. She strapped herself into the pilot’s seat and turned on the running lights. The basement was penetrated in all directions by the harsh glare. She started the engines.

The house above blew away like so many playing cards, and she was on her way.

by SarahBeth Wasserman (April 8, 19__)

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4 Responses to phyllis

  1. Maggie says:

    I like this a lot. You always wonder what goes on in the mental lives of middle-aged suburban women. If only we all had spaceships to make a quick getaway when we need it.

  2. Thanks.

    My one qualm with this story is that some readers — ones who are new to my writing, probably — will think the space ship is some sort of metaphor.

    Nope. It is a spaceship.

    Someday I plan to write a story where she returns in her spaceship and describes some of her adventures.

  3. SB Roberts says:

    I was already fascinated by where this was heading, but then the spaceship? I love that twist!

  4. Every writing class that I was in in college had at least one person who would write “Richard Cory.” They (apparently) didn’t know they were writing “Richard Cory,” but there seems to be something irresistible about writing about a man who goes through a seemingly-happy day in a seemingly-happy life, and then goes home to blow his brains out.

    I thought of a way to give it a twist. 🙂

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