by Anna Lea Jancewicz
When she was waiting tables, she used to marry the ketchup bottles. That’s what they called it, marrying. Taking two bottles that are less than full, making them one. But the joke was on her.
She figured the punchline while the veil was perched on her head like a ghost sparrow. While she was still waiting on him, off on a beer run with the best man, sure he had at least thirty minutes to burn before he had to hit the altar. But it was too late by then, the dress like a Portuguese man-o-war and the fifty-six chicken dinners were bought and paid for.
It’s not like there’s this third bottle. There’s the bottle with the least left to give, upended. And then that bottle is empty, the other gets it all.
This flash fiction began germination as I was waiting, in my station wagon, to make a left turn at a major intersection. I had once worked in a little breakfast dive in the shopping center right there. I was thinking about what a dump the place had been, and I got to remembering that little plastic gadget used to combine ketchup bottles. I remembered about marriage. I always thought that had a glimmer of poetry to it.
I started thinking about how marriage combines people. When my husband and I got married, twenty years ago, we combined our CDs into one collection. We had to cull the redundant copies. When we divorced seven years later, we had to decide which albums belonged to whom, and if we wanted copies burned. It was a drag. Of course, when we remarried seven years after that, the process started again, came full circle. I thought about how people combine in ways less material, how that might compare to ketchup bottles. It struck me as a cruel joke then, that one bottle always ends up empty, and how a person might be subsumed into another.
The light turned green, and it took me a while to get around to writing it out, but when I did, this is what happened. I particularly like the image of a wedding dress as a Portuguese man-o-war.
Anna Lea Jancewicz lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where she homeschools her children and haunts the public libraries. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming at Bartleby Snopes, The Citron Review, Fried Chicken and Coffee, theNewerYork, and elsewhere. Yes, you CAN say Jancewicz: Yahnt-SEV-ich. More here.