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by Robert Scotellaro

Gil mentioned his job at the rubber ball factory, and she told him how that would explain why he bounced back so quickly. He liked that, and let her know it with his best Bozo the Clown smile, all dusted off after leaving his wife of 24 years for another woman, and the woman leaving him for another man.

It reminded him of a cartoon he’d seen as a kid, of a small fish being swallowed whole by a bigger fish, then a bigger fish swallowing that one, and a yet bigger fish gobbling up that one, and so on … Till the last fish was enormous. There was always a bigger fish waiting.

They were in a hot tub at a roadside motel under a corrugated plastic overhang, and it was raining. “But what I really do,” he said, “I mean, where my heart is, is writing novels.”

“Really,” she said. “You write a bestseller?”

“Well, it’s just one. Not published yet. But I have an agent.” He pulled his hand from the bubbling tub. “Fingers crossed,” he said.

“What’s it about?”

“It’s called The Zombie in Fishnet Stockings. Kind of a zombie romance/detective thriller.”

She nodded, turned away, a bit distracted. She was wearing a skimpy bikini and he noticed the faint imprint of a small cross at the crest of a sunburnt breast.

“Zombies,” she said. “Huh.”

“They’re popular,” he said. “Who knows, maybe it’ll be a series. TV — eventually.”

“I’ll look for it,” she said, then added, “when the time comes.” There was a sudden downpour and they both looked up. “You ever think how this is the same rain that fell on Cleopatra,” he said. “I mean, obviously we’re not in Egypt, and it’s not thousands of years ago. But it’s the same rain that’s been around forever. Just circulating, continuously. I’ve always found that fascinating.”

She looked around again. “Huh?”

“It just keeps going up and coming down. The same old stuff. Pretty cool actually.” He couldn’t believe he used the word “cool.” Thought he sounded like one of his kids. Especially the youngest.

“That never occurred to me,” she said, and as she glanced up, a man with an umbrella put two towels off to the side and slipped into the water beside her. “Umm,” he said and gave her a long kiss, then leaned back, stretching his legs out. And there was that crucifix on a chain, nestled in a clump of chest hair.

Gil moved over and let one of the jets blow out against his back. It was pretty sore from all those road miles he was racking up. The adventure he promised himself.

In the cartoon, a man in a boat caught the enormous fish. But when he reeled it in (beaming, his pole tautly bent) the fish slipped away one by one back into the water, till the man stared in dismay at the tiny fish that was left.

Gil eased out of the tub and headed back to his room. He could feel the cold needle pricks against his skin. There’d be some beer and a pack of cigarettes waiting. And, as for the rain: hell, if it was good enough for Cleopatra or Genghis Kahn on a wet horse, who the hell was he to complain?

Robert Scotellaro has published in W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, The Best Small Fictions Anthology 2016 and 2017, NANO Fiction, Gargoyle, New Flash Fiction Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and many others. He is the author of seven literary chapbooks and three story collections: Measuring the Distance (Blue Light Press, 2012), What We Know So Far (winner of the 2015 Blue Light Book Award), and Bad Motel (Big Table Publishing, 2016). He, along with James Thomas, has co-edited an anthology of micro fiction, due out by W.W. Norton in 2018. Robert lives with his wife in San Francisco. He can be reached at www.rsflashfiction.com.