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New In Flash Fiction: “Sudden Comprehension of Defeat” by Susan Scutti

Sudden Comprehension of Defeat


At the call center, Lisette had mastered the art of sounding pleasantly sassy. As her supervisor loved to say, Lisette knew how to make people laugh even if she said spiteful things about them later. In an office of poorly paid, middle-aged women, Lisette had found a home. She served as a mascot of sorts — she was, after all, the same unattractive but cheerful 20-something girl these women had once been, ignorant of her inescapable, miserable fate.

In a bathroom stall, she masturbated looking at the sanitary napkin disposal box, its metal mouth open, hungry. The last time Lisette had had sex was with a librarian she’d met online.

His eyes had registered disappointment when they met. Thick arms exposed in a sleeveless dress, Lisette had raisin colored eyes, no discernible cheekbones, and a wide flat nose pierced by the slenderest of silver rings. The librarian had looked around as if searching for an escape yet remarkably he mastered this impulse. After a drink and a taste of Lisette’s humor, any desire to be a decent guy faded and another plan took its place. He signed his name to the credit card slip, which included the price of her sugary cocktails, lifted his head, and said, Ready?

Lisette read the exploitive urges in his eyes. Still, she followed.

Afterwards, she felt grateful even if the cushion had left a crease in her face. Fruitlessly, she waited for his promised call. Weeks passed, her eyes resumed their bored expression, and she returned to her online search.

Her profile pic, taken from the neck up, showed a lipsticky mouth and dark bangs covering her eyes. She looked mysterious. The word “chubby” stood out in a self-description filled with surprisingly insightful comments about the celebrity biographies she read and the cop shows she watched on TV.

Weeks of rejection. The office girls (as they called themselves) buoyed her spirits. And then, out of the blue, a new guy took the bait. Lisette talked to him on the phone only once. He’d audibly yawned and then interrupted her to ask which sex positions she liked. She knew she should forget it, right there, but she was drinking and she really wanted a date.

She’d already drunk two Pinot Noirs on an empty stomach when he appeared 40 minutes late. She felt the knot in her stomach tighten. He was shorter than he’d said and seeing her, his lip formed a natural sneer. He insisted they drink shots of cinnamon whiskey and then invited her back to his place.

Climbing the stairs to his walk-up, he said he needed to pee, and once inside he indicated his room; his roommate, a skinny pimply looking guy in a recliner, watched her pass.

Lisette closed the door and sat on the edge of the bed. She hated his laugh. When both he and his roommate came in minutes later, she felt a tremor run through her body.

For three weeks Lisette was not herself, the girls said. Things got better after she picked a fight with her mother, a woman who cashed her alimony checks at the liquor store. Having made her mother cry, Lisette relaxed slightly. It took months for her to get back online, a new site, searching for an escape from the call center.

Now she was on the bus, traveling to a familiar part of the city. She knew immediately he was in night school and not the usual kind of law school student. He had a skin condition and looked 10 years older than his picture, still his disappointment was obvious. She made a plopping sound when she sat.

On her way to the ladies, she swiped an empty wine glass from a deserted table and put it in her backpack. In the mirror, she pushed her bangs aside, said, “Gina Montes.” The name suited her. She wasn’t exactly sure how long before the powder took effect.

Walking past the table, Lisette thought he looked like every other guy nursing a drink. Only she could see the distress in his eyes, the paralysis in his limbs.

She stood before him for a moment, willing him to understand, and left.

Susan Scutti

Susan Scutti works as a reporter. Her last novel, a book of her poems, and a collections of her short stories were each published by separate small presses, and before that she independently published two novels. She has regularly published poems and stories in literary journals over the years.