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Gluckschmerz by Michael Loveday | Word Riot
Flash Fiction

July 29, 2017      

Gluckschmerz by Michael Loveday

Gabriel clasped my hand, smiled all over me, and confessed the news of his success. A flicker must have passed over the screen of my face; he looked doubtful, as if concerned he’d misspoken.
     I considered my mode of response. For a moment through the bay window behind him I glimpsed the spires and historic structures of the city. They spread out along the skyline, their limestone gilded by the late sun and speaking of a magnificence that I cherished. This was truly a starburst moment, a marvellous accomplishment. This was the final realization of a long application of prodigious talents. This was a historic era for my department, and prestige would be conferred upon the rest of the faculty. This was an opportunity to cling on and be dragged by the stray horse of mutual glory.
     We all think we carry within us a store of generosity to deploy at will, as simply as donning a pair of new trousers, or wearing make-up. But at the moment when convention would have summoned it, my residue of kindness disappeared. I wanted to crush Gabriel slowly as if squeezing the juice from a melon.
     I wanted his inevitable rise to be pursued hard by public shame – a revelation about a prostitute, or being caught by paparazzi tumbling out of a taxi with a C-list mistress on the Strand – flies undone, face bleared, the photo splashing over next morning’s red tops. I wanted his friends and myriad Linkedin acquaintances to drift away in disappointment. I wanted Bonnie and Clyde, Gabriel’s cherished pair of cats, to go missing while being looked after by a long-trusted neighbour during one of his now-dwindling summer jaunts to the Côte-d’Azur. I wanted him to be found one Christmas soon afterwards, drooling in a corner of the Park Lane Hilton in a pool of his own urine, unable to speak his own name. Next I wished his furtive propensity to break wind at departmental meetings to develop into a painful but not fatal bowel complaint – one that inconvenienced him on his way to crucial appointments and required him always to carry a second pair of underpants in his jacket pocket in a plastic bag, which one day would be found by his insufferable mother. And I wanted all of Gabriel’s future erections to be immensely sore, such that he’d eventually lose his Phi Beta Kappa succubus to an even taller and better-thatched man.
     I hovered at the threshold, not fully entering the room. My eye was still distracted by the spires behind him, never quite meeting his gaze. Yes, I would water my bitterness in the small hours of night, and nourish it with a fertilising bile, thrilling as the cactus head flourished. It would be one of those malignant species whose furry prickles pass unnoticed by the victim until it is far too late.
     Leading with the left hand corner of my mouth, I dragged a smile into existence. I placed both my hands around his hand, and shook it heartily. He would never know a thing.

About the author:
Michael Loveday’s stories are published & forthcoming in magazines such as Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine; The Forge Literary Magazine; Litro; Flash Frontier; The Jellyfish Review; Spelk; and Stand. His debut poetry pamphlet “He Said / She Said” was published by HappenStance Press in 2011. He lives in Bath, UK, and teaches in adult education.

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