Jane Hertenstein




Jenna woke up and smelled the bacon and eggs her roommate was ruining on the stove top and retched.

Wow, that was a surprise!

She wadded up her waitress outfit abandoned the night before on the floor next to her bed and, not knowing what else to do, put the puke-coated uniform into the collapsible laundry hamper she’d bought at Ikea two months ago. She’d deal with it later.

Still she couldn’t get the horrible taste out of her mouth no matter how many times she brushed her teeth, or gargled, or sucked on cinnamon lozenges. It was there. The burning, pending anxiety lodged in her stomach—much like the cellophane-wrapped throat drops she couldn’t get enough of.

Then it hit her, right before sleep, one night after a long day of waiting tables and riding her bike through the snow to classes that were cancelled anyway, and meeting with her boyfriend who was now her ex-boyfriend in a dreary coffee shop where the tea tasted like soap.

She wasn’t exactly sick as much as in a state.

The next morning she awoke and threw up, dressed and undressed several times before deciding—she had to deal with this. She tossed the stinking vomit clothes out the window into a snow drift. Whilst sitting on the side of the bed with one sock on, she called Brian, getting only his voicemail.

Time ticked by and eventually she managed to shod both feet with socks and shoes and tramp outside in the snow to her classes. But not before leaving her roommate a note saying she might not have enough cash on-hand to pay that month’s rent.

In the afternoon she called her brother in Minneapolis who worked as a computer technician. He said he was busy and couldn’t talk. Scrolling through her cellphone contacts she couldn’t think of a single person she wanted to share this information with. So she tucked the device inside her coat pocket and went back out into the snow.

Later, back at the apartment, Taryn said what’s up, rent’s due, and I don’t get this note.

Jenna tore it up. Never mind.

She went into her room and powered up her laptop. There were three messages from Brian and an e-mail from her English professor informing her of her marks on a mid-term report on Thoreau and Emerson. She would have to do better next time.

Popping a cinnamon drop, she sat staring vacantly at the screen.

Last winter she and Brian had collaborated on a children’s picture book—she wrote and he illustrated. About a fiddle-playing tadpole. Of course it didn’t have arms (or legs for that matter) to play his instrument, but the climax of the story came when he evolved and morphed into a frog. It was meant to be a tale of redemption, about life turning out right. They’d crowdsourced to raise funds to print copies.

She logged into her Kickstarter account. This forthcoming project would need some serious financing.





Jane Hertenstein’s current obsession is flash. She is the author of over 80 published stories, a combination of fiction, creative non-fiction, and blurred genre both micro and macro. In addition she has published a YA novel, Beyond Paradise, and a non-fiction project, Orphan Girl: The Memoir of a Chicago Bag Lady, which garnered national reviews. She is a 2x recipient of a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Hunger Mountain, Rosebud, Word Riot, Flashquake, Fiction Fix, Frostwriting, and several themed anthologies. She can be found at http://memoirouswrite.blogspot.com/. Her latest book is Freeze Frame: How To Write Flash Memoir.

Comments are closed.