Coincidence or Retaliation?

| 2 minutes to read

Written by |
Illustrated by Allen Forrest

Illustration for author Paul Beckman's flash fiction 'Coincidence or Retaliation?' by illustrator Allen Forrest

I was snooping through my wife’s closet in between football games while she was away trying to connect with her family at one of their, “Tell us how you feel about that,” reunions, when I found something tucked away in a shoebox under a pair of sequined high heels.

Her family has a mutant psychology gene running rampant through their DNA. Both of Betsy’s parents are psychologists as are each of the five sisters. Three are married to psychologists and one is engaged to still yet another. In college, Betsy tried to get me to commit to psychology and my refusal almost busted us up. I graduated with a business degree and went on to become a nurse mid-wife. She fails, to this day, to understand the logic in this. I don’t go to these functions for obvious reasons—hives—too many shrinks around me and I break out in hives.

Betsy left with a load of presents for the family’s annual gift swap; A George Foreman Grill, set of special hangers you can only buy on TV, a pizza stone for the oven and other wonderful things.

A keg party starts off the festivities and leads to the, “Tell us how you feel about that,” discussion and the gift swap is the last event of the weekend before all leave for home. Betsy will return with new things neither of us wants and we’ll use them as gifts for the sisters who didn’t give it to us. Betsy’s a record keeper — she won’t mix them up.

All her shoes are kept in shoeboxes so I went through them one by one until I came across a stack of letters under the pair of sequined high heels from someone named Wendell, another psychologist she got it on with at their quarterly conventions. Apparently he had decided the timing was right for Betsy to throw her life away and join him on his houseboat moored in Lake Tahoe. There were six months of back and forth letters before Betsy told him a firm no. This exchange took place only last year.

I put the letters back, unhappy with myself for not seeing the signs of infidelity, ignored the shoeboxes I’d not gotten to, and left to watch the Giant’s kickoff from inside a bottle of vodka.

The next day Betsy returned home with four juicers and two Magic Bullet kits that she had given to her mother and sisters in past years. “What do you think?” she asked pointing to them on the kitchen counter.

“Do you think it’s coincidence or retaliation?” I asked. “And by the way, some guy named Wendell called for you a couple of times.”


About Paul Beckman

Paul Beckman writes everywhere and sells real estate in Connecticut. One endeavor is much more rewarding than the other. He’s been published in The Raleigh Review, Boston Literary Review, The Brooklyner, Web Del Sol, Playboy, 5 Trope, Word Riot and other wonderful venues in print, on line & via audio and photography.

More flash fiction by Paul Beckman



What did you think about ‘Coincidence or Retaliation?’?


Writing resources

Writing prompt generator Submit your fiction Shackcast: Listen to audio stories

Flash fiction in your mailbox?