Wind Eggs
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Wind Eggs

If only you stopped thinking “if only,” you might accomplish “done”

The Subversive Power of the Subjunctive

Small Tales

Source image by Ollyy

Here was the premise: If not for that glimpse of her blonde hair as the door closed behind her, Jean Pierre would never have thought of his old college girlfriend, Chiffon. (Although if he hadn’t spent the weekend reading Balzac’s Cousin Bette, Charles would have most likely given his characters’ American names. (And if it weren’t for his refusal to work with cliches, he wouldn’t have spent an hour trying to think of an original metaphor for “not germane.”)) But catch a glimpse of her he did, which made Jean Pierre pause from paying his ticket and recollecting college.

Chiffon was the love of Jean Pierre’s life, although if she hadn’t bumped into him when the professor stopped him at the door to remind him his last three assignments were overdue, they likely would never have met. She would have remained the sensuous blonde that always sat in the front row against the wall, chewing on her pen and kicking one crossed leg so that her flip-flop dangled in space, the girl of whom Jean Pierre daydreamed daily, imagining the life he would have with her if only he could gather the courage to ask.

I even though they collided at the door, Jean Pierre and Chiffon would never have become lovers if it weren’t for her constant apologizing and wishing she weren’t so clumsy..

A life of picnics with wine with baked Camembert on baguettes smeared with butter and jam. A life spent nestled in bed on cold evenings, his head on one succulent breast while she read e.e. cummings and Rupi Kaur. Nights spent soaking the bedsheets with the perspiration of their passion. (If only Charles could think of a better line than “perspiration of passion” he might have a contest winner with this story.)

But even though they collided at the door, Jean Pierre and Chiffon would never have become lovers if it weren’t for her constant apologizing and wishing she weren’t so clumsy. If only Jean Pierre hadn’t continued to see Anne (if only Anne didn’t have the finest ass at college) and if only it didn’t turn out that Anne and Chiffon were roommates (oh, how he wished he had never agreed to sleep over at her dorm just once, and how he wished he’d have bothered to listen to either when they babbled on about their roommate and her literary boyfriend).

Charles stopped writing. Where the hell was he in this story? He didn’t have a clue. He sighed and finally acknowledged that if it weren’t for his persistent use of the subjunctive, he would not have gotten so deep into his story that he couldn’t find a good way to end it.

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Wry noir author Phillip T. Stephens wrote Cigerets, Guns & Beer, Raising Hell, the Indie Book Award winning Seeing Jesus, and the children’s book parody Furious George. Follow him @stephens_pt.

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