by Chelsea Stickle
Audrey knew what it was like to have less than she wanted. After all, she tried to find a good man but found her husband who clipped his toenails in the living room. Stooping over the carpet and running his hands along it until the prick, but he always missed a couple. Audrey found them when they pierced the soft flesh of her foot. So Audrey could understand how demoralized Jeanie, her neighbor Godfrey’s daughter, felt about her mother abandoning them for the life of a wedding singer. On warm summer nights, Audrey heard Jeanie crying through an open window. Sniffling, blowing her nose on her pillowcase. Audrey hoped hummingbirds would bring hope enough for both of them. Beaks like needles full of sugar water. Their iridescent bright bodies appearing at random shimmering with warp-speed wings. All of this for the low price of a hummingbird feeder and some nectar.
But she didn’t get hummingbirds. She got wasps that she imagined wasps chewing up her siding and filling every crevice until her house was a giant nest humming and thrumming with activity. A home for wayward wasps but not for her. Her husband told her no one would ever let it get that bad. At some point, he joked, they just raze the place. She pictured firefighters starting fires. The only photos of her as a child up in flames because she wanted to see some pretty birds.
With the mass of wasps blocking her kitchen window, Audrey couldn’t observe her neighbors. She had no choice but to time her mail retrieval with Godfrey’s. He told her that Jeanie was allergic to wasps and needed an EpiPen on her at all times. Audrey’s grip on her SundaySaver loosened.
Unlike her husband, Audrey could learn from her mistakes. Late at night when the wasps were less active, she unhooked the feeder. It fit in nicely between the trash bags, set on top like the ruby red prize to a game she didn’t want to play.
The next morning, to apologize, Audrey set across the lawn with a basket of homemade muffins resting in the crook of her arm. The fresh grass tickled her ankles. The sun beginning its daily slide across the sky. Audrey made a fist to bang on the door before she noticed the doorbell. She’s been prepared to fight for what she wanted, but that wasn’t necessary here. Just press a button. Simple. The door revealed a hallway bursting with warm morning light and Godfrey’s face like a tight rosebud unfurling in a flash. There were hummingbirds everywhere.
Chelsea Stickle lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and an army of houseplants. Her flash fiction appears in Monkeybicycle, The Molotov Cocktail, matchbook, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and others. She’s a reader for Pidgeonholes. Breaking Points, her debut chapbook, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press (fall 2021). Read more at chelseastickle.com/stories and find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.