e planned to ask her to marry him in the white wedding cake of a gazebo in the back garden, off the terrace. Nobody else was home that day, except the gardener, who didn’t count, and the maids, who counted even less. Frizi was nervous, and kept wiping his sweaty palms on his trousers, leaving dark patches on the gray flannel. He wished he had worn his sailor’s bellbottoms instead, but hadn’t wanted to get grass stains on the crisp white linen.
He toyed with the ring in his pocket, hoping it would fit her finger. It would spoil the romance if he had to jam it over her plump knuckle, or if it were too loose and dropped into the shrubbery. To control his shaking, he tried to make light conversation until the right moment. He wasn’t sure when that would be.
“It was a nice moon last night.”
She nodded, gazing down at an ant struggling to drag a leaf ten times its own size.
“So bright you couldn’t even see the stars.”
“Yes.” The ant was heading towards the edge of the stops. Would it fall off or turn and keep going?
“Delia, I…” Fritzi’s throat was as dry as his hands were wet. He saw the curve of her breast beneath her yellow silk blouse, and desire stuck to the roof of his mouth.
She heard his hoarse breathing and lowered her head, concentrating fiercely on the ant’s progress. The leaf dipped over the edge of the step, threatening to take the ant with it. She could almost hear it panting with effort.
Fritzi tried again. “From the first time I laid you –“
Her head swung up and she fixed him with a glassy stare.
Oh God, what did I just say? He fumbled, “I mean, laid my eyes on you, I’ve loved you. Delia, will you – will you—marry me?”
The ant teetered, hung suspended in the air still clutching the leaf, and tumbled onto the concrete walkway. She could see it lying there on its back, legs kicking, smothering in something that wasn’t meant to be.
* * * * *
This post is one in a series of works inspired by the Smithsonian Institution’s photo archive, made publicly available on Flickr. If you would like to, choose an image from their collection and create something – be it prose, poetry, audio, or visual art – inspired by it, and send it to snakeoilcure [at] gmail [dot] com.
Siu Wai Stroshane is a published writer and longtime admirer of the Elephant Man. She has works in several anthologies, both on-line and in print, including bartlebysnopes.com, “The Forbidden Stitch: An Asian American Women’s Anthology, winner of the 1990 National Book Award (Calyx, 1989), and “A Ghost at Heart’s Edge: Stories and Poems of Adoption (North Atlantic Books, 2002).
Her publications at Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.