December 15, 2019 by The Citron Review
by Paul Beckman
I had to get out of the house. I was tired of arguing with my wife, so I headed into my refuge of solace—the park.
A woman was sobbing loudly. I heard her as soon as I walked into the park. A weeping man was comforting her, his face touching hers. I walked down my usual path and heard loud wailing. A man on a park bench was inconsolable; another man standing, facing him, with tear-stained cheeks, and outstretched arms, pleading. On every bench a crying woman or man. All around me there was sobbing and holding and stroking. There were no squirrels or dogs running in the park today.
After fifteen minutes I exited the park onto a street parallel to the park filled with double decker and triple decker houses. People sat on their stoops silent, tears running down their faces. No one attempted to console these men and women.
On the next block I stopped in front of a house with the windows open, radio on, and a soothing male voice broadcasting, “Crying is good and cathartic. It will wash away bad feelings, sins, gas, disappointments, and more.” The homeowners saw me standing and invited me into their happy house. Their kids were playing a board game and giggling, the husband and wife were washing and drying the dishes together and singing. Everyone was smiling.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Life is wonderful,” Wife said. Husband added, “Our crying was last week and this week we couldn’t be happier.”
“Who’s doing this?” I asked.
“Does it matter?” Wife asked. “It works. Come into the kitchen. I just took cookies out of the oven.”
I walked out with a bagful of home baked chocolate chip cookies they insisted I take and nibbled on them as I walked.
I headed back to my apartment hoping my wife had cooled off. Retracing my path through the park I saw no one was crying anymore. Now all the couples were making out.
I walked into my house and found my wife with the plumber, embracing on our couch—clothes littered the floor. They ignored me and I sat on the loveseat and broke into tears. I sobbed, loud, racking sobs. They didn’t try to comfort me. I nibbled on more cookies and cookie crumbs stuck to my tears.
Paul Beckman’s fourth short story collection is Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press), was a finalist for the 2019 Short Story Indie Book Awards. He had a story selected for the Norton’s New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction from 2018 and was one of the winners of Best Small Fictions 2016. He won the Editor’s Choice Award in 2016 from Fiction Southeast, and was in the Wigleaf Top 50. His stories have appeared in the following publications as well as many others: Jellyfish Review, Spelk, Necessary Fiction, Litro, Pank, Playboy, Thrice Fiction, and Lost Balloon. Paul curates the FBomb NY flash fiction reading series monthly at KGB.