CONTESTS

Impatient

LESLIE VRYENHOEK

First prize winner of the 2009 Fortune Cookie Contest.

Patience can make great things happen

When the doughy man with the grocery bags comes toward her, she shrinks against the wall so no part of him brushes any part of her. She doesn’t look up when he mumbles Excuse me, and she stays stuck to the rough stucco while he struggles to open the door.

Unattractive people make Patience uncomfortable.

Eight nights in a row, no one’s asked why she’s sitting in front of an apartment building where she doesn’t live. The first night, her ass only tentatively perched on the concrete steps in case she had to stand suddenly, she was sure someone would. She’d even planned an answer: I’m watching the traffic.

She couldn’t imagine anyone having a problem with that. Still, she was prepared to move across the street if push came to shove off, though over there one of Winnipeg’s fat elms would be blocking her view of the busiest part of the intersection.

Anyway, she’s relieved no one’s asked. She wouldn’t want to say, precisely, what she’s watching for, and she couldn’t really explain how, as she’d stepped off the #11 bus, the broken glass and bits of car had pointed her to exactly this spot.

Nearby, a bag has latched onto a lilac bush by one plastic handle. It puffs up importantly with every rare breeze. Yesterday, Patience’s mother called this weather sultry, then rubbed up against the man she refers to as her Next Potential Husband. Patience thinks the air feels more like dangerous.

She considers the bag. She’s heard they make their way to the sea and kill whales. Or maybe it’s dolphins. Whatever. She’s a fan of marine mammals, at least in theory, but she’s decided against capturing that bag and shoving it in her pocket. These jeans don’t have pockets and frankly, the bag seems harmless.

Patience wants larger threats: burning buildings, hostage takings, fiery car crashes. She wants to pull someone from the brink with her split-second clear thinking. She daydreams about finding missing children—usually, although not exclusively, alive—and then about discouraging praise from the media. There’s a lot of heroes out here today, she imagines saying into the camera, especially this little guy.

Patience knows it’s just a matter of time before she does some great thing. She hopes it will happen soon. She’s already twenty-two and suspects time is sanding her down. At the call centre, she’s noticed that older people never wonder if they smell smoke, and during the last fire drill they just moseyed out, gabbing, not even touching the stairwell door to check if it was warm before opening it. This made her think, What if a real fire started, coincidentally, just before a scheduled alarm?

The wind picks up and Patience gives up for the night. On her way past the lilac she grabs the bag, sends it on its way. She doesn’t see it fill behind her, fly into the intersection and through an open car window, but she does feel the crash in her bones.

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LESLIE VRYENHOEK

Leslie Vryenhoek’s work has been published in periodicals across Canada and internationally. She is the author of Scrabble Lessons (fiction, 2009) and Gulf (poetry, 2011), and she is an editor on Riddle Fence (riddlefence.com). She lives in St. John’s.Her story, Impatient, won first prize in the Geist Fortune Cookie Contest.


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