Short Fiction: The Proposal

Tristan pulled up outside Edna’s house in white horse-drawn carriage. One magnificent steed, as noble and muscularly defined as Michelangelo’s David (though that’s where the anatomical similarities ended), stood harnessed beside a skinny old nag that resembled a smoked duck. The carriage itself was large and elaborately detailed, like the fancy candles Tristan’s neighbour was always trying to sell him. Tristan steadied his nerves with another swig from his hip flask, and then vomited down the front of his suit. He stood and gave a long blast on his bugle; dogs began barking; Edna rushed out to meet him. She climbed aboard the carriage and off they went. Tristan proclaimed his joy with another mighty blast of his horn. It set off a car alarm that would keep the street awake until one in the morning.

It was a delightful ride through town, soured only by a large hailstone that struck Edna’s head, imparting a mild concussion. The carriage stopped outside the restaurant, and Tristan and Edna went inside. The atmosphere was amazing and the food smelled divine. Though they were just there for Edna to drop off a job application form, the experience was sublime.

Returning to the carriage, Tristan asked the driver to take them to the observatory. The driver told them to get out. Tristan took this as an insult, and told the driver to go and do certain unsavoury things to himself. The driver explained that he merely meant the observatory was next door to the restaurant and they didn’t need to take a carriage ride there. Tristan laughed at the misunderstanding, but the resentment he held toward the driver never subsided.

Inside the observatory, Tristan and Edna dressed as pirates and posed for a photograph next to the largest telescope in the state. Tristan looked through the enormous piece of equipment, while Edna stood beside him holding a small, collapsible spyglass. Later, on Tristan’s computer, he would add a nautical background to the picture, and the caption: “Yarr! Do you think he be tryin’ to compensate for somethin’?” He sent the picture to several greeting card companies, but never heard back from them.

The final stop of the evening was the greyhound track. There was no racing that evening, but Tristan had big plans. Edna unlocked the gate (she owned the racing club), and wished him good luck. She left him and took the carriage home. Tristan walked through the deserted stands, down to the track. There she was. His girlfriend, Violet, was running terrified laps of the sandy circuit. Every Wednesday night she would climb the fence and sneak in. She liked sprinting around the track imagining she was a rabbit being pursued by dogs; it made her feel alive. Tristan waited on bended knee at the finish line, holding out a ring that, from a distance, appeared to contain a diamond. Violet rounded the final turn, wide-eyed and foaming at the mouth. Sweat glistened on her forehead. Tristan just knew she was the one. Upon seeing Tristan, she shrieked and sped down the final straight as if she was possessed. Tristan closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Violet ran right toward him and lunged at him feet first, slamming her heel into his neck. She collapsed in a spluttering heap, blacked out for a minute, then revived and accepted the proposal. The damage to Tristan’s throat forever robbed him of the ability to speak, but could never take away his happiness.



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