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Flash Fiction—Speed Dial, by Christopher Linforth

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Speed Dial, by Christopher Linforth

I called my ex-wife about the butterflies.

On the front path to the house a swarm was feeding on bird droppings. They were rust-colored, I said into my cellphone, maybe metalmark butterflies.

My ex-wife accused me of drinking again and said she was going to hang up. I persuaded her to stay on the line.

“We have to talk about where the kids are going to spend the summer,” I said.

My wife laughed.

“With me, of course,” she replied, and ended the call.

I stared at the dull screen of my cellphone for a while, examining the reflected image of myself. A man too young to be divorced and alone.

I pocketed my cellphone and went out to the front yard. The butterflies were gone. Globs of white and black on the path showed where the birds had shat.

I looked up, saw none in the sky, then scanned the viburnum by the side of the house. Deep inside lay an abandoned nest made of sticks and bits of fast food wrappers. Perhaps built by a sparrow or finch.

My ex-wife wouldn’t appreciate another call about the irony of the empty nest, yet I dialed her number anyway.

Dr. Christopher Linforth is author of The Distortions (Orison Books, 2022).