Puzzle-edged and jigsawed, he never seems to fit. Heís had women he doesnít remember, a daughter he doesnít know. He met her mother, a dancer, on a payday spree. She was a face and he was a face going out matchlike after the alley. Drunken and quick. My parents only met for five minutes, the daughter might later say.

And then, Jake stumbling over beer cans and trash cans, going home to his wife, poor thing. When he opens the door, she is knitting him a cap. She has been waiting for his weekly check. Pay the lights. Pay the heat. Pay the grocer. He turns his empty pockets inside out. I owed it all to Flynn, he says.

She feeds him what is left. Hot porridge with sliced banana. He doesnít know about his daughter growing inside a strangerís belly. I donít deserve you, he tells his porridge wife.

You canít really blame him, his mother would say. Too good looking. Cursed with his fatherís Irish hair. Thick, black piles of it to break a womanís heart. Too clever, his buddies would say. Tells the ladies what they like to hear. Too easy, alcohol would say. I shine my bottle, and heís mine.

One day, perhaps, he sees a baby in a motherís arm. A dark blip crosses his heart. Something puzzle-missing from his life. Something vague that is his, if he only knew. Something like a breath that leaves a mouth, travels a hundred miles, and strokes a strangerís ear.

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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