EFL Fiction for April Fool’s by Matt Suwak.
“I quit smoking.”
Donny tossed his pack of Ugly Sticks to the trash. He fought the urge to dive into the garbage head first to retrieve the pack, his favorite brand since he was sixteen, but he had made his decision. No more smoking, no matter what.
Becca’s eyes widened and her cheeks pulled back in a huge grin, “Oh my god, that’s great! That must have been a tough decision but I’m proud you made it,” She hugged Donny and squeezed tight. “I’ve got something to tell you, too,” she said during the embrace.
“Tell me all about it,” Donny said, held her tight, wanted to hear what she had to say.
He knew quitting was the right decision to make, not just for his health but to make Becca happy. They had something special, and he didn’t want to ruin it with a bad habit like smoking.
“I’m pregnant,” she said.
Donny froze in her embrace. He was pretty sure his heart stopped beating and that the blood in his face had drained towards the floor.
“You’re shitting me,” he said.
Becca broke the hug and looked at Donny with unguarded joy and excitement, “No, I’m not shitting you. I found out this morning, isn’t that great? I mean, I know it’s a lot to handle, but we’re going to be a mom and dad!”
“I’m not ready for this,” Donny said slowly. Becca’s smile never faltered.
“I mean,” he said, “I just need a few minutes, okay?”
Becca nodded, her ponytail shaking like it was swatting flies, “I’ll be here when you’re ready.”
Donny’s feet stepped away, one, two, twelve steps to the balcony. He opened the sliding door and barely acknowledged the early springtime air. It was sharp, stuck somewhere between seasons, not sure whether it should be sunny or cloudy, wet and warm or bitter and cold, or some combination of it all.
The cold cement felt good on his bare feet. Donny watched the four-way intersection at the corner of his apartment building, watched the drivers squabble and fight their way to the next stop light. He’d never get over Philly drivers. They were terrible to each other.
Watching their trouble soothed his twisted stomach.
What the hell was he going to do? He could barely afford his bills as it was. Donny didn’t have health insurance; hell, he drove around in an ‘87 Ford Ranger that had no working seatbelts. He piled handfuls of snow or leaves onto the windshield to cover the expired inspection sticker.
He’d have to sell it, get something safer, more reliable.
Christ! He didn’t want to sell his truck! And he sure as shit didn’t want kids either. Never had. It wasn’t something he was ready for, and he liked the way things were going.
But, then again, he liked smoking a lot too. And he dumped that habit right into the trash. Made the decision that his life would be better without sweet, sweet tobacco, and he was going to stick to it, through the thick and the thin.
Maybe he could bolster that step forward with the next one he was going to take. Really, was anybody ready to be a parent? His parents sure weren’t, but Donny and his sister turned out just fine.
In the early spring sunshine his freezing feet regained some semblance of feeling.
Donny could do this. Even if he wasn’t ready, even if he didn’t want to yet, he knew he could. A part of him wanted to, even if he buried it before this moment.
His heart was swollen now. He’d remember this moment for the rest of his life.
Donny opened the patio door and walked back into the apartment, past the Fender he’d have to play with headphones once the baby was born, beyond the collection of knick-knacks he’d have to lift up and away from baby’s range.
He walked to Becca and said, “Alright, let’s do this.”
She smiled. Her eyes squinted from the moment of happiness.
And her head tilted back. Like a Pez dispenser. She cackled a laugh that froze Donny more than the stone-cold patio outside. He looked at Becca with a slack jaw.
“April Fools!” she said, clutching her stomach and doubling over with laughter, “April Fools, oh shit you should have seen your face!”, tears sluiced down her cheeks at her prank.
Donny couldn’t move. The moment he’d experienced–
His feet were unfeeling again. They carried him to the trash can. His hand reached in and pulled out the Ugly Sticks, removed one from the pack, lit it with the lighter on the counter. It didn’t taste very good, but Donny smoked it.
Becca’s fits of laughter began to subside when she smelled the smoke. She looked at Donny and said, “Wait, I thought you quit smoking?”
Matt Suwak was reared by the bear and the bobcat and the coyote of rural Pennsylvania. This upbringing keeps him permanently affixed to the outdoors. He is fueled almost entirely by beer and hot sauce and can throw a football ten miles. Matt is performing ground-breaking research for his book “Sixteen Likely Portals to Hell”, the followup to his critically panned “Cooking With Bigfoot.” Read more on his website heyplantguy.com