Here are the five entries for February 2020’s Flash Fiction competition.
Voting is now open and will close at 11.59pm on this coming Sunday 23 February.
1 Reaching the prognosis
The bike. The air. It’s the breathing in that does it. I fall flat. My legs will work but my head won’t. Riding a bike through the forest up to the art gallery. The stuffy humidity and bug traffic as I push through the full air.
The city looked after me – the daily manners we used with each other, the soothing, energizing architecture, the sound of the flow and rhythm of life carried me along. When I found out, the city gently held me until I could make it through the taxi ride home to finally fall apart.
One day you’ll feel like you’re swimming along with everyone else, other days you will feel like you’re jumping out of your skin. A late prognosis after it’s all happened. That feeling of sinking into the earth as you walk down the steps.
Walking through the city, down the street or through the supermarket will be confusing, and you’ll want to freeze on the spot like a deer in the headlights. Your feet twitch, your hands are in conflict like two magnets repelling.
2 A Canberra voyeur
In a bedroom, somewhere within the Canberra ‘bubble’, a fly, on the wall, is listening!
“Jude, it has been a hell of a few weeks; I don’t seem to be able to take a trick. Do you reckon they would come at a new, multi-million-dollar research facility, to finally nail down Clean Coal? Could I convince the faithful that the pictures of me holding that lump of coal were manipulated, … you know, fake news? Arsonists have lit over 35% of the fires and yet we are still being blamed! It’s as though they expect me to man the trucks!”
“This climate thingy is a global phenomenon and, our share of emissions is only 1.3%. We are doing our fair share. We have to protect the economy – jobs and growth! But how do I convince those woke, inner-city lefties?”
“Relax hun; you need to relax! Your marketing spin will win the day, it always has. Thoughts and prayers might help, too! “
He ponders and absent-mindently starts considering options. He settles deeper into the pillows and starts to relax. “OK Jude, we need to cuddle so where the bloody hell are you!” The mood softens and the fly retreats.
In the morning the fly has moved to the kitchen. The couple are sitting down to breakfast. The bloke is distractedly licking excess jam and crumbs from his plate. “What about the religious discrimination business? Or a media stunt, demonstrating my record of under promising and over delivering! Maybe ‘throwing somebody under a bus’. Enthusiasm lifts his spirits – yer, that’ll work! What’s her name, you know, the girl who runs that sports funding program – er whatsername!”
The mood lightens significantly as the idea begins to take form.
“You know Jude, I reckon we deserve a holiday. Why don’t we leave all of this behind for a bit. We can take the girls to, err … weren’t they talking about Vanuatu? We can slip away quietly and be back before anybody knows we’ve gone!”
3 Great aunt
I sit here watching my great aunt sleep and can’t help remember how much she has affected my life. She is such a amazing woman, so kind and compassionate even to complete strangers. When I was a child she was the one I went to for advice because I knew no matter what I had done, there would be no judgement from her just unconditional love. Who knows where I would be if it wasn’t for teaching me to always look for the good in people and to be kind no matter what. I hear her breathing hitch and it’s like a knife to my heart. I’m a doctor, it’s my job to help people and yet when it’s a member of my family, there’s nothing I can do. Maybe if I had visited her more or at least phoned her more then the prognosis may not have been so bad. I reach out to take her hand into mine and kiss it. Barring some miracle from god I know she has a few days to live at most. How do I say goodbye or express how much she means to me, I don’t know but I won’t let her die alone. Even if it breaks my heart.
The blue-grey walls with gaudy carpet, round tables and high-backed chairs, an old dance hall perhaps. Perhaps with ballroom dresses swishing across bright chrysanthemums on the floor and long thin ties at the corner counter where alcohol spurred with glace cherries or lemon spiked into the sides of long glasses. Then his eyes averted to a painting, orange loose on its cut side, lying close to the shine of an eggplant. The tone of the elongated skin, the purple of one and the bright velour of the other. How could something so chunky in purple shine with any amount of rubbing?
He sat alone, casting back to when they were so young and she was friendly. How could things change just by one word? Prognosis, not a sister to diagnosis but more of a long-lost cousin. Only four months after a random annual check. A blood test which came back with another ugly word ‘results’.
Her body was riddled they said, “with the cancer everywhere”. They could not do anything but wait for time to pass, to elapse. There was no treatment possible; out of the blue, the grey emerged. And to this day, he had not forgotten when he had asked what to expect. They said, “Oh, you mean the prognosis?”
Two months, not long to wait, they had said, but were they being generous? They were dumbfounded. She was till then an ordinary member of society jumping to dance at every chance. He, the older of the pair, wondering how does one accept this ‘prognosis’? Was the diagnosis not enough, in one go? No, it is not, prognosis is ‘what to come’. He gazed at the painting, without a whisper What he meant by ‘what to expect’ was what would happen to them, as a couple, and other questions, not just the clinical predictions.
So he sits here on sunlit afternoons in the dark bar, ordering drinks and wondering . . . could there be another word other than ‘prognosis’?
I remember seeing a snail climbing up the window. That’s what I remember when the doctor said she only had weeks to live. Of all the insane things to remember.
She had only just started school and now within weeks my precious Sam would be joining her mother Emily. I don’t recall the trip home, a unicorn chasing a leprechaun could have passed us and I wouldn’t have seen it.
We sat on the beach that night watching the sun set.
“What would you like to do Sam?”
She giggled “Eat green eggs and ham?”
I laughed as tears streamed down my cheeks. She was so much like her mother Emily. I would do anything to make her final days as memorable as possible.
“Come on, seriously now”
After being quiet for a while she grabbed my hand and I followed her inside to the world globe on her desk.
By the time I tucked her into bed and read her a story we had roughed out out an around the world trip to see some sights before she took her final journey.
An hour later and I’d managed to book all the flights and accommodations for our big adventure. I had to max out all my credit cards to do so but I had a lifetime left to pay them back.
Falling asleep that night I couldn’t help but remember the very first time I’d held her in my hands in the hospital. It seemed too surreal that only a few hours ago I was holding the test results telling me the news we had been dreading.
Those final few weeks will probably be the most memorable of my life. She made so many new friends that trip we ended up live streaming the celebration of her life for those that couldn’t attend.
I now have so many houses around the world that I’ve been told to consider as my home, but with this house empty, nowhere feels like home.