Janie decides to start her own country, one with no heartbreak. She knows she will need a flag. She meets her vice-president, Ruth, for dinner. Ruth was easy to win over because she was sick of her fifth floor walkup and figured there would be a mansion involved.

They go to a quaint French restaurant. Janie knows that as head of her own country, she will need to understand different cultures. She orders the coq au vin though she has no idea what it is. Ruth simply orders some wine. “Our country will have alcohol in all the water fountains,” Ruth says in her newly-acquired decree voice.

“All right,” Janie says “but first we need a flag. I was thinking of red to symbolize all the broken hearts.”

“And green,” Ruth adds. “For all the money spent on therapy.”

The waiter brings the coq au vin.

“This is chicken,” Janie says. “I thought it would be something more.”

“You might also say that about love,” the waiter smiles.

By now, Ruth has wandered over to the piano bar and is singing slurry Sinatra.

“We were going to start a country,” Janie tells the waiter, who has sat down in Ruth’s place. “But my vice-president seems to have other plans.”

“Your first abdication,” the waiter nods. “I would say this calls for a toast.” He goes over and grabs a bottle of wine off a nearby table. “I lied and told them this wine was made from the blood of tiny birds,” he winks. “They were happy to send it back.”

After a glass, the waiter offers to be her vice-president. Janie declines, explaining that men are not allowed in this country free of heartbreak.

“Perhaps I can convince you with a flag.” He pulls the tablecloth from under their plates, magician-style. “The flag of our country would be different,” he says, “You don’t wave it; you wrap yourself in it, like love.” Janie is so impressed, she swears the waiter in then and there.

A moment later, Ruth returns, ready to discuss affairs of state. When she learns there has been a coup, she challenges the waiter to a duel.

“I am honored,” he says “to defend my new country.” He picks up a nearby butter knife and ties the flag around him like a cape.”

Just then, the bird wine table signals they are ready for the check. The waiter puts down the knife and excuses himself. Sadly, Janie realizes that he would never put national security ahead of getting a good tip.

Ruth is quickly reinstated, but Janie admits to having some doubts. “I thought my own country would be different, but it’s nothing but duels and disappointment. In the end, everything turns out to be nothing but chicken.”

“Well, this should cheer you up,” Ruth says, leaning in bright and hopeful. “I just heard that this place sells the most delicious wine made from the blood of tiny birds.”



Francine Witte: is a poet, playwright and fiction writer living in New York City. Her flash fiction has appeared in Doorknobs and BodyPaint, in posse review, slow trains literary journals as well as numerous print journals. Her flash fiction chapbook, The Wind Twirls Everything was published by MuscleHead Press, a division of Boneworld Publishing in Russell, NY. Her poetry chapbook, The Magic in the Streets was published by Owl Creek Press as first prize winner of their chapbook contest. She has received three Pushcart Prize nominations. She is a graduate of the University of Vermont, SUNY Binghamton and Vermont College. She teaches English at Norman Thomas High School in mid-town Manhattan. Please visit her website -- frangirl.com.


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