A soldier is waiting in line to spend fifteen minutes with a prostitute. His name is Lenny Aldridge and he was born about thirty-six years prior to this moment. With an American five-dollar bill crunched within the fist of his right hand, Lenny stands behind nine or so other men.
As the line slowly shortens, down to eight men, then seven and so on, Lenny reconsiders. He thinks of his wife, Eleanor… Eleanor Aldridge. He imagines her with brown hair, all gnarled, and wearing a gold pearl necklace over a Corinthian white blouse. He never even saw her that way before. She is a straight blonde and mostly dislikes the color white. Perhaps it is his guilt adorning his wife in a brighter light, or maybe Lenny is just trying to convince himself that home is worth the wait. And maybe those two things are one and the same. Whatever the case may be, he feels distressed and exits the line.
The next opportunity to line-up presents itself only a few days later, only this time, to spend a few minutes with a priest. While waiting, Lenny rehearses in his mind the order in which to present all of his trespasses. Lenny’s strategy is to discuss the simple ones first, and then build his way to the more critical transgressions, though there aren’t many. He even contemplates inventing a few sins along the way for the transition to be a smooth one. But then that would be lying, which is itself sin, and would ultimately defeat the purpose of confessing. Then again, he finds the idea amusing and contemplates its value as a short story. While thinking of all this, he notices a man walking out of the confessional with a grin. This is the second time someone has emerged out of the box seeming satisfied. Lenny wonders how silly the whole idea of confession must be. What good is it telling a mortal man your sins, anyhow? Also, he doesn’t recall reading anything about confessionals in the Bible. So once again, Lenny exits the line.
The next day Lenny is on the front line of battle. While loading his pistol, he is shot in the stomach, and immediately after that he is shot in the groin. The second bullet skims his foreskin before settling in his upper left thigh. No longer able to fight, he lies against a nearby tree trunk. It’s not very comfortable, but it will have to do, as Lenny realizes he will probably soon die.
He starts thinking about his life in general and suddenly experiences an epiphany – about how he was mostly too afraid to do anything morally risky during his existence. He also remembers never really attempting anything admirable, either, fearing he would seem too pretentious. As a result, he never really did anything at all.
As Lenny is thinking about all this, he notices the end of his life is quite closely overhanging. He is now convinced it must be better to make a poor decision than none at all. He decides therefore, right then and there, to make a decision. For he has neither experienced the short pleasures of sins nor the enduring joys of virtues.
After weighing his innumerable options, he settles on having a smoke. He has never enjoyed a cigarette in his entire life. So he reaches into the coat pocket of a nearby dead soldier, grabs the goods, and lights away.
Lenny lies as comfortably as he can against the trunk, delighting in his decisive execution of inhaling burning tobacco and awaiting his afterlife, whatever it may be.
virgil fanous was born and raised in Montreal. He loves writing short fiction mostly for his own pleasure, and feels there is an immediate reward to very short stories. The shorter the story, the faster the reward, logically. This is why flash fiction is such a thrill. Besides writing, he also enjoys playing the piccolo and listening to Django Reinhardt. However, his field of work is related to engineering and the writing of natural knowledge including other topics such as physics, chemistry and even biology. He enjoys all these different styles of literature.