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by Kate Jones

I had this Magic 8 Ball when I was a kid.

One semester, I used it to make all the big decisions. “Should I ask Amy Glick to the Spring Ball?” Without a doubt. “Will I get past first base?” Very doubtful. “Will I die a virgin?” Most likely.

I asked Amy to the ball anyhow. She said no. Said she’d rather go with her mom. Asked her best friend Martha instead. She had buck teeth in desperate need of braces. She said Hell yes.

I didn’t get to first base, but second, with Martha. I didn’t even need the Magic 8 to predict that one.

When I packed for college, I took the Magic 8 with me. I’d realised it wasn’t that scientific, but kinda liked the way the blue dye displaced, the clear white letters. It let me off the hook of making decisions.

Maybe I should’ve asked whether my wife would leave me. What could it have said? Signs point to yes?

I hear my ex-wife upstairs now as I move a box of vinyl records from the pile in the corner of the basement. They’re piled on top of a rusted up exercise bike. An ill-fated fad to get fit back in the ’90s.

Martha’s voice, sharp as cider vinegar, calls my name.

“I’m in the basement,” I call back.

We’re clearing the house. Her orthodontist boyfriend’s keen to marry. Ironic, she finally got those buck teeth fixed and made herself pretty. Now she’s gone.

I find the box, slightly crushed. Stick my hand to the bottom, feel the smooth, spherical object, pull it out. I sit back onto the cold stone floor.

“Is there a chance Martha will take me back?” I ask in a whisper, shaking the ball to release the dye.

But the fluid’s begun leaching. No answer floats to the top.

Kate Jones is fanatical about flash fiction, reading it or writing it. Her work has been published widely online, including in Spelk, Firefly, Café Aphra, SickLit and with forthcoming work in The Nottingham Review. She has also been a three times winner of the weekly Ad Hoc Fiction contest, placed first in Flash500 and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. To keep things interesting, she’s currently interning for Great Jones Street and is an essayist for The Short Story. Make friends with her @katejonespp.