A work of flash fiction that incites reflection about the regrets that may linger when all is said and done…

by: John Brantingham

Buddy wakes up to find that Linda’s no longer in bed. He gets up and shuffles downstairs to find her and maybe have coffee over the newspaper, but he finds her body lying on the floor at the foot of the bed.

Linda is clearly dead, her face no longer looking like the woman he’s known for forty years, and maybe it’s the sleepiness or shock, but he’s calm enough to check her pulse at the neck and then to call 911.

After he’s called, Buddy knows exactly what Linda would want him to do. The ambulance will be here in around five minutes, and he takes this time to put on trousers, a shirt, and a sweater she knitted him twenty years ago.

While Buddy’s changing, he tries to think what his last words to her were, and what was the last thing she said to him. He knows that when this strange serenity wears off, those words will be important. Was it when she asked him to turn off the television? They’d had a little spat in the evening, and when she asked him to turn off the TV, he’d said, “Sure,” but there was a little anger floating around that the back of his throat that he knows she must have heard.

He’d wanted her to hear it.

There was something he’s sure that he said after that. It was as they were lying in bed, one of those things that people say to each other. She’d responded. Was it loving? He’s trying to remember as he laces up his shoes. Did her response forgive him ? Did it ask forgiveness?

Buddy tries to forgive her now, but he can’t find that emotion. As he gets up to answer the knock at the door, he doesn’t know that he’ll ever be able to locate any emotion in this new land he’s just crossed into.


John Brantingham’s work has been featured in hundreds of magazines such as The Writer’s Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has released eleven books of poetry and fiction including Crossing the High Sierra and California Continuum: Volume One. He teaches at Mt. San Antonio College.

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