The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

W. W. Norton Flash Fiction 2008 1st Place story — Dobie


Timbro Wallace was a practical man; a decent man who wanted nothing but peace for his wife, Dobie; nothing but peace and satisfaction with the world in which she lived. That’s why Timbro was frustrated almost to the point of anger when these big thinking women came around filling his wife’s head with nonsense about paints and stitchery and photographs and such. Wanted her to go down to the armory and stick her hands in the mud and make pots and pans and whatnot out of it, and pay good money for the privilege of doing so. He’d never heard of such a thing.

“You can pout all you want,” he told her from his place at the kitchen table where he awaited his dinner. “I’m just trying to save you some heartache is all I’m doing.”

“I ain’t pouting,” Dobie answered, her face pink from the heat as she arranged her carrots and potatoes like flowers in bloom around the limp knot of roasted pork on the platter.

Timbro spread his hardened hands on the tablecloth before him, positioning his fingers just so around the spirals and curly-cues Dobie had embroidered on a piece of fabric she had rescued from his mother’s attic. He had an obligation to protect his wife from frivolities, he reminded himself. Left to her own devices, there’d be no telling how she might spend both her time and his money.

Dobie smoothed the intricate braid at the back of her head then polished a smudge from a jelly jar before pouring Timbro a glass of sweet tea infused with mint from her garden. She carefully folded a cloth, quilted in shades of blue, into a perfect square and placed it in the middle of the kitchen counter to balance the yellow of a bowl full of apples, glossy and red. She pinched a sprig of larkspur from a pot in her kitchen window and placed it in the button hole of a corduroy dress she had cut down and sewn from one of Timbro’s old brown suits, the lavender, stirring her eyes and causing them to dance as she approached the table, supper in hand.

Seating herself to his side, Dobie looked on as her husband served up the meal.

“Besides,” Timbro told her, sniffing and shaking salt on his food before raising a fork. “Let’s face it—you’re a housewife. Creativity ain’t got nothing to do with that.”

Dobie looked out the window at the sun setting like a ripe peach in a puddle of cranberry juice and nodded her head. Reaching for a potato, peeled and trimmed into a perfect sphere, she slowly began to hum.


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