by Jon Lasser
They’re on the phone. Again.
We’re driving through Nebraska at ninety miles an hour. Ten years ago, he’d have only me to talk with.
I can hear her, eight hundred miles behind us. I hold my breath and step on the accelerator. I hope she can’t hear me.
He tells her that he’s still in Denver. He tells me that she doesn’t know.
They’ve been talking an hour already. I wait for his battery to die.
About a decade ago, I drove from Basalt, Colorado to Chicago with a friend. I had been looking forward to the trip, particularly the time we would spend chatting during long dreary stretches of highway. My friend spent hundreds of miles of Interstate 80 arguing with his girlfriend. They screamed at each other for hours at a time, then hung up. Minutes later, the phone would ring and they would start again. Shortly before reaching Omaha, I decided that the girlfriend was jealous of me. After all, I had become jealous of her. Fortunately, I saw a story here.
I'd been thinking on Hemingway's shortest story, but decided that I wanted to cram more in. I wanted (and always want) a story that feels like a complete world is waiting on the other side of the paper.
How few words would it take to fit in the reversal I had experienced? Fewer words than it has taken to tell the story behind the story.
Jon Lasser lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. His fiction has been published by The Ne'er-Do-Well, Ampersand Review, and elsewhere.