Five of Wands
©2011 by David J Rust
700-word Flash fiction
Dom gritted his teeth so hard he thought they might crack and crumble to powder. His heart pounded so loudly that he thought not only could he hear it but virtually everyone else, too. His boyfriend dashed down the capital steps after him.
"It's not over; not yet," Taylor said. "It goes to the voters, next."
Dom whirled around. Anger wasn't driving him as much as frustration. "And we all know how many times state voters have voted down a constitutional amendment denying us our civil rights! Yeah, this'll be a piece of cake!" With that, he resumed his departure. Despite it being hard to think clearly, he knew he needed a drink. He headed for Ansel's.
"It's not that hopeless," he said. "Come on, you've always been the one telling us to not give up..."
Dom rolled his eyes. "That was twenty years ago when I first started getting active. I've gotten a bit jaded since then."
Ansel's wasn't the sort of place Dom and Taylor would usually go. For one, there was no rainbow flag outside marking it as "safe" territory. Second, the place had almost no windows and smelled like mildew. Even the old photos on the walls -showing famous, proud vistas of the American landscape- were dusty and covered in grime. It was the closest bar to the state capital and Dom didn't want to wait.
He ordered a screwdriver to the skeptical glance from the bartender and took it to a corner table. Taylor got a lemon sour and went to sit down next to him.
"It's not fair," Dom said at last. "And don't give me that crap about life not being fair; I know that. It's just that..."
"For twenty-four years of your life, you've devoted yourself to the cause," Taylor finished for him. He sipped his drink and made a face. He pushed it aside and sighed. "I know, hon. You've fought harder than most."
"And what do I have to show for it?"
Taylor looked uneasy. The bartender was doing his best to not look like he was watching them. At mid-afternoon the two were the only people in the place.
"People still revile us; beat us in dark alleys. It's not about protecting their values, it's about them protecting their right to treat us like shit!" Dom continued.
"And you ignore the successes? Equal rights in housing? In employment?"
Dom just shook his head, jaw clenched. "Not enough. Not in the wake of rising attacks in the streets and from the mouths of every politician not to the left of Al Gore. I … I've had it. I'm ready to give up." He looked at Taylor, shadows in his eyes. He swallowed, hard, and hadn't even noticed that he'd polished off his drink in moments."I mean it: after all my work, after all these years, what do I have to show for it?"
Taylor looked around the bar and then back to Dom. "You have me," he said. With that, he took out the ring he'd been carrying in a small box in his pocket.
"You know what it is," Taylor said. He glanced around the bar again, lowering his voice. "Look, don't make me say it out loud; not in a place like this..."
Dom clenched and unclenched his jaw. It was a plain thing, really: a white gold band set with a single, tiny emerald. Like Taylor, elegant in its simplicity. The tableau of his past, present, and future opened up to him. He saw Taylor there, long-suffering Taylor, and felt the tiredness lift, just a bit. So much work left to do; still more mountains to climb.
Behind Taylor, the bartender stood watching. Catching Dom's eye, he flashed him a quick thumbs-up and raised his eyebrows encouragingly.
Dom sighed and slumped forward. There was so much to do and, he feared, there might always be more. But valuing the work as much as the results might just be possible...
"It's not legal," Dom said, taking the ring.
Taylor winked and leaned in to hug him. "You'd better act like it is," he teased.
David J Rust (aka Sylvan)