Fredric Brown was known for doing two things quite well. He was a master of the twist ending, science fiction’s O. Henry, if you like, and he was prolific with extremely short stories, flash fiction in modern parlance. Combining the two is not particularly easy, but since one aspect of flash fiction is “its ability to hint at or imply a larger story,” according to Robert Swartwood, the fact that the author needs to use words sparingly means that they have to imply a great deal of the plot, characters, and setting, leaving the stories rife for misinterpretation or misdirection.
One of Brown’s pieces of flash fiction is “Reconciliation,” which first appeared in Browns’ collection Angels and Spaceships. In only 311 words, Brown tells the story of a couple whose marriage is falling apart. John has come to view his unnamed wife as someone who only married him for his money and hangs around with women whom he dislikes. His wife denies that his money has anything to do with their relationship, but feels humiliated by the fact that John has had an affair and is positive that he will have future affairs, a fact that he confirms.
Brown has captured the vitriol and hate of two people stuck in a relationship that can only be headed for an ending, whether separation, divorce, or murder.