I’m standing at the south rim of the Grand Canyon taking photographs of florid purple striations, of undulating rock walls that sink to alarming depths. But it is almost checkout time at my hotel, and I want to take a tub and use all their emollients, a habit my ex deplored. When a young couple approaches to ask if I would please take their photograph, I want to say, I’m not the Park photographer? This happens to me everywhere—in the Boston Gardens, along the banks of the Charles. Always a couple in love—like this couple in their multi-pocket hiking shorts and sturdy Clarks. I let my Nikon dangle from the beaded lanyard round my neck, and take their fancy smart phone, heeding their instructions. “You were always a good listener,” my ex once said, “but sometimes you have to let things go.” I line the couple up in front of the Canyon’s distant north rim, bronze wall aglow. I wave them to the right a bit. Joined at the hip, they happily sidle right, probably thinking I am a good photographer. Then I motion for them to step toward me for another photo. Unaccountably, they shuffle three steps back—and disappear with scrabbling sounds and tiny shrieks. Then no sound at all. I whirl around for help but there is no one in sight. On my hands and knees, I peer over the cliff’s edge, but it hides the floor far below. As if to assure myself that they were once here, I look at their photographs. Against two backdrops, they are young, expectant, with squinty smiles against the morning sun. And then a blur. Breathe, I tell myself. I set the phone on a wooden bench for someone to find. It is the only evidence the three of us were here.
“Letting Go” first appeared in New Flash Fiction Review, 2015; And, New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, 2018.
Featured Image: Don Gray “Blue Fog”, 2013. Acrylic on board. 49 x 54 in. www.dongraystudio.com. Vancouver, Washington.
Pamela Painter is the author of five story collections, most recently, Fabrications: New and Selected stories. She is also co-author with Anne Bernays of the widely-used textbook, What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications, such as Sudden Fiction, Flash Fiction, MicroFiction, Nothing Short of 100, Best Micro of 2020, and New Micro, and won three Pushcart Prizes and Agni Review’s John Cheever Award for Fiction. Painter’s stories have been presented on National Public Radio, and on stage by Cedering Fox’s Word Theatre, and appear on artist Anthony Russo’s YouTube channel CRONOGO. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.