This is a flash fiction piece that I originally wanted to work into a series of flash fiction stories that were interconnected.
By Ronald Cypress
Pauline had taken off again and had been gone for a few hours when I sat down on the couch and happened to catch A Place in the Sun on television. I was supposed to be finishing up with the laundry instead of watching TV and lounging around. I had put one load in the wash and just left it there, assuming that Pauline would get to it once she came back. She had left that morning after we got into an argument about finances. The details are too boring to go over. It was a stupid fight but probably typical for married couples. That was what we had become, a typical married couple.
We had been married for three years. Pauline had started going off shortly after the third anniversary. She never told me where she was going, but I always assumed that she headed to her best friend’s house. It was either there or her aunt’s house. I never went out looking for her. If Pauline wanted to run away from home like a little girl, I wasn’t going to chase after her. I didn’t even ask about where she had gone to after she came back home.
It was easy to relax when Pauline was away. The day I turned on A Place in the Sun was a beautiful, spring day. Before sitting down in the living room to watch TV, I had sat on the porch for about an hour, watching cars go by and thinking about things I would have to do that summer. We needed a new lawnmower. I was supposed to make sure momma got a new AC unit. Jesse, my little brother, was going to be leaving rehab pretty soon, and I was supposed to keep an eye on him. I was going to be pretty busy that summer.
I eventually went inside and turned on the TV. I had to flip through a few channels before coming to A Place in the Sun. It was close to the part where Montgomery Clift’s character is meeting Elizabeth Taylor’s character for the first time. I didn’t intend to actually get caught up in watching the film since I had already seen it several times. I just wanted to see some of it. The film is a classic, but what really drew me in was Monty Clift. He’s one of my favorite actors, though I’ve only seen three of his films, A Place in the Sun, From Here to Eternity, and Red River. All of them are classics.
Without a doubt, Montgomery Clift is one of the greatest movie stars ever. And while I’m as straight as the road to hell, I feel no shame in admitting that Clift was one beautiful man. But anyone who knows about Clift knows what happened to that beauty. His perfect face got smashed up in a car accident. After that there was no more beautiful Montgomery Clift but just a tragic person.
Still, what excellent screen presence he had when he was in his prime. I always feel bad when watching his hapless character in A Place in the Sun get caught up in a love triangle that turns fatal for a few people. His character in From Here to Eternity was kind of the same, another victim of circumstances. I guess the real Clift ended up being like them. Man, it had to suck to have those looks and to lose them in one night. While I was watching him in A Place in the Sun, I thought about how that man captured on film had no idea of what was coming to him. That beauty wasn’t going to last much longer.
I ended up almost watching the rest of A Place in the Sun but got up from the couch and walked away just before Clift’s character was taken to his fate. Back out on the porch, I looked around and wondered about Pauline. I had expected her to be back by then. The fight hadn’t been that bad. I had called her a few names, and she had done the same to me. It was all foolishness.
Momma had warned me that we were too young to get married, but I disagreed. We were both twenty-two. I had known people who had married while still in their teens. Momma said we weren’t ready. I had considered listening to her but didn’t want to wait. Pauline and I had something too special to delay.
I sat on the porch for about an hour and then went back inside. There were some chores that I could have done to pass the time, but instead of doing them I drank a beer and took a short nap. I figured that Pauline would be back by the time I woke up. She wasn’t. By then I was too hungry to really care.
There was a new restaurant that had recently opened. Destiny’s Diner had been in business for about a month. I had driven by it a few times but never went inside. The place looked pretty nice from the outside. I really liked the big neon sign with the name in blue and red, though I didn’t care much for the name. I knew that it was named after the owner, Destiny something—I don’t know her last name—and that it was becoming popular in our town. Destiny was supposed to be a somewhat eccentric woman, and supposedly her diner was very welcoming to every type of character that was out there.
I thought Pauline and I would go there together, but I was on my own when I went in for the first time. The place actually looked to be bigger inside than it did from the outside. Don’t ask me how that’s possible. There were a bunch of people there, but it didn’t feel too crowded. I had to wait for about ten minutes before I could take a seat at the counter. While I was waiting, I noticed that the walls were covered with pictures of celebrities. Most of the pictures were black and white, and most of the celebrities that I recognized were dead. Hanging up high on the wall that was behind me was a picture of Montgomery Clift. I was pleased to see it there. It was a headshot from Clift’s early years in Hollywood. There, in the center of the black and white photo, was a stunning face that belonged to man who had no idea of just how fragile he was and what was going to happen to that beauty.