by: Jack Ratliff ((Header art is by the incredibly talented Gregory Crewdson.))
Two offerings of flash fiction that challenge our perceptions of reality in the throes of wonted life…
The Spectacle of Everyday Life
Sitting up in her bed, the only light was from the pale green glow of a digital clock. She slid from underneath the covers and the hardwood floor creaked beneath her bare feet as she made her way to the dresser. As quietly as she could, she opened the top drawer, feeling around until she found the sock in which was hidden the straight razor from her mother.
Leaving the sock behind she entered the hallway. At the top of the stairs she sat in a lotus position and slit both of her wrists. She watched the blood as it pooled on each step and flowed downward to the next. “What’s all this about,” asked her father, stopping at the bottom of the stairs with an empty ice cream bowl and the remnants of a glass of ginger ale.
“It’s yours,” she replied. “I’m giving it back.”
“It doesn’t work that way sweetie,” he said as he resumed his journey to the kitchen.
“Just be sure and put it back when you’re done.”
In the morning she checked her wrist. The wounds had healed and only scars remained.
“Oh good, you’re up,” said her mother, poking her head in the door.
“Thanks for knocking,” she replied as she rose from her bed and began the ritual of getting ready for school. As she was dressing, she paused and touched the scar on her chest. The more she touched it, the more it hurt. Disgusted by the site of it, she hurriedly finished dressing and made her way down the empty stairs.
“Just in time,” said her mother.
Sitting in front of a stack of buttermilk pancakes, she watched as the butter melted and cascaded down the edge of the cakes.
“I’m glad you decided to wear long sleeves and cover up those new scars,” said her mother.
“I’m late,” she replied and thrust her chair back and grabbed the largest knife from the knife block. Plunging the blade deep into her mother’s abdomen, she stepped aside before the gush of blood shot onto her school clothes.
“Did you get any on you?” asked her mother as she fell back into a chair.
“No, I don’t think so,” she replied as she looked herself over, but was interrupted by the blast from a car horn. “That’s my ride, I have to go.”
“Have a good day, dear,” said her mother as the screen door slammed shut.
At school, she saw Derek talking to Miss. As she watched, the scar on her chest began to hurt. She tried to remember who Miss was last week, and who it was the week before that, and then she tried to remember how long had it been since she was Miss.
People began to point at her and stare. Looking down, she saw that the scar on her chest had reopened and was bleeding through her blouse. She drew her books tight against her chest and eased the straight razor from her purse. She pushed her way through the stream of students and slashed at Derek’s throat. He grabbed her hand and snapped her head back with a fistful of hair. He smiled as he guided her hand across her throat. Blood from the gash flowed down her clothes and pooled at her feet. His buddies patted him on the back as he laughed and walked away.
“Dying at home is so much easier,” she said to herself as her schoolmates gathered around to snicker and sneer.
It’s Never Too Late To Say
Rust covered the grill and the flowerbeds where he used to hide Easter eggs. His legs were weakening and he was forced to put more weight on his cane. He knew he was out of time and he had to either sit or walk or his legs would give out completely.
In the house, everything was just as his wife had left it. His kids hired a caretaker and he spoke harshly to her if anything was ever out of place.
He passed by the kitchen where he left his walker. He hated using it. The cane was more dignified. In his bedroom, he sat on his bed next to the suitcase that was packed and ready to go. Today was the day. He was going to a home and his son was on his way to take him there.
He took his box of medals from his nightstand drawer. “When in Hells bells did this thing get so stubborn?” he said as he struggled to open the box. With his forefinger, he straightened the ribbon from which each medal hung. He was always proud of his military service, but the day he got out was one of the happiest days of his life. The speed at which the box sprang shut startled him and he almost dropped it. He gently placed the box back in the drawer where it had sat for so many years.
It was a beautiful day and he decided to wait outside. He was never warm enough, so he put on his hat and jacket and picked up the suitcase. In the living room, he paused and studied each of the photographs that cluttered the mantle above the fireplace. “Even the damned dog is gone,” he mumbled and went out the front door.
Sitting on the porch swing, he watched the quiet street and tried to remember how many neighbors had come and gone over the years.
“Hi, Dad,” his son said as he shut the car door. “Is that all you’re taking? Where’s your walker? I’ll go inside and get it. Dad. Dad? Dad!!” he shouted, realizing his father was gone.
Gasping, he covered his mouth and looked up and down the empty street. He rushed into the house and paced back and forth across the living room. Plunging his hand into his pocket, he pulled out his cell phone.
“911 what’s your emergency?”
“It’s my Dad….he’s….I think he’s….”
“Is there someone who can perform CPR?”
“No, it’s just me.”
“What’s the address?”
As he rattled off the address, he stopped pacing and stared at the pictures on the mantle.
“Sir. Sir? Are you still there?” said the voice as he picked up the photograph from the mantle. His chin quivered as he wiped the dust from the photo of the Easter when the grill was new. He carried it outside and sat beside his father, and through his tears, fought to say goodbye.