Flash-fiction

Burnt Match

Image Credit: Januz Miralles
Image Credit: Januz Miralles

Matt arrived late. When he entered the church it was already crowded. Numerous colleagues and students sat on the benches and looked at the coffin where the Dean lay. Matt breathed in thick air and felt overwhelmed with the suffocating vibe of death. He made a hasty step to leave but then changed his mind and only loosened his tie. He leaned against the wall near the entrance door and looked at the widow. As always, he couldn’t take his eyes off her face.

Wrapped in a long black dress that accentuated thinness of her body, she seemed more fragile than ever. Her red curly locks, which usually hung loose to her shoulders, were now hidden under the strict black hat. Her stiff, straight posture and a slight tilt of the head made her look like a burnt match. She stood near the coffin and shook hands with people that kept coming over to her to express their condolences.

“She doesn’t hear them,” Matt watched her force a mechanical nod. “She doesn’t see them. She’s barely there.”

Last time Matt saw her at the Dean’s birthday party. She laughed at her husband’s awkward jokes holding onto his shoulder, and the flame of her hair danced along the rhythm of her laughter. Matt chuckled too, not able to resist her contagious joy.

“What does she see in him?” Matt looked at the Dean’s bald head. “His thick glasses? His false teeth?”

“Well, it’s not fair,” he said to himself. “He’s not so old to have false teeth. But he’s too old for her.”

Now he was too dead. Matt looked at the corpse in the coffin. There were no glasses on the Dean’s nose; and he didn’t smile to show his horse teeth. He looked calm and secure as if he knew that, even dead, he still owned her, as if he was sure that now, leaving this world, he would take all her warmth and brightness with him so that she could never look at anyone else the way she used to look at him.

Matt wanted to come up to her and look into her eyes and say something nice and encouraging. He wanted to try and erase the lines of pain destroying the beauty of her pale face. But he kept standing next to the wall. He was afraid to meet the dark emptiness of her look which replaced lively sparkles that had always flicked in her smiley eyes. For the first time he didn’t want her to know he was there.

He left the church, not waiting till the end of the ceremony. She won’t notice anyway. She won’t care. He had always been in the shadow of her love for another man. Now, he will stay in the shadow of this man’s death.

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

The Daily Post

Sketching

Odd Memory

As a kid, I had a very strange reaction to the news of death. When I heard that somebody had died I wanted to laugh, and my lips created a creepy grin that shocked me, myself, infinitely. I knew it was wrong to smile, but I couldn’t help it, I felt like laughing.

First time it happened when I was in the second grade. The teacher entered the class and stood at the blackboard. Some boys in the back of the room didn’t notice her and kept giggling over some stupid joke one of them had made.

“Who can laugh on such a tragic day!” the teacher suddenly yelled. The boys in the back of the room got quiet, and the rest of us looked up at the teacher in silent surprise. “Don’t you know that a member of the government died last night?”

I didn’t. But when I heard it I wanted to laugh. I didn’t know why, it wasn’t funny, and the teacher’s angry face looked scary, but my mouth betrayed me and started creating a smile. I bit my lip and lowered my head to hide my face so that nobody could see it and think that I can laugh on such a tragic day.

The teacher decided that I was deeply moved by the sad news. She came up to me and stroke my head. That was tough: I wanted to laugh even harder.

Years passed. I don’t smile at the news of death anymore. On the contrary, I get upset when people I love leave this world. But when I think of that day when the member of the government died I still can’t imagine what was in the teacher’s head and why she expected small kids to care about some total stranger’s destiny.

 

The Daily Post

Flash-fiction

The Red Date

calendar

The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in. He stared at the calendar in despair, “There’s no hope here. The future is empty, there’s no way to fill it in.” He touched the red date of Sunday. The smell of blood hit his nostrils. He jerked his hand as if to wave the smell away, but it stayed. He shivered, his memory brought him there again.

He came back to that weekend where time lost its meaning, where the whole world stopped, where he couldn’t feel anything but the pain of burning regret and remorse, remorse, remorse. That weekend when he knocked at the door of his son and didn’t hear anything in response.

“Stupid boy, playing his games all day long, can’t hear anything but the shooting in his headphones. Open!” he knocked stronger. “I need to talk to you.” The room behind the door stayed silent. “Jerry, if you don’t open I’ll come in anyway.” Silence again. “Enough! I’m fed up with your childish behaviour.”

He pushed the door and entered. The room was empty. The computer was off, and the bed was neatly made.

“Finally, somebody came to his senses,” he thought with relief. “I hope he also washed his hair.” He knocked at the bathroom door. “Can I come in?” He heard nothing but running water. “Jerry, I’m sorry I yelled at you, but I’m your father, I know better. And I see that you have agreed with me.” He looked around the clean room and smiled: even the bookshelves were dusted.

“Jerry, I’m coming in.” He stepped in the bathroom, and his foot sunk in the pool of water. “What the heck, Jerry!” he wanted to say, but his eyes received the answer already. Jerry, dressed in his Sunday-church suit, floated in the opaque red water flowing over the brim of the bathtub.

The hysterical ambulance siren pulled the neighbors out of their houses to the street where they watched in silence the car carrying the body away. “What are you staring at?” he yelled. “There’s nothing to look at here, don’t you see? Nothing to look at!”

“Nothing to look at here.” He turned away from the calendar and wiped his tears. “I’m sorry, Jerry. I thought I knew better than you, and it’s too late now. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Flash-fiction, Sketching

Lost on the Seaside

carte postale

“When did you know you were lost?” he asked.

“I don’t remember.” She shook her head and looked at the policeman. “I called for my husband, but he wasn’t there.”

Her wrinkled hand searched in her handbag and got out a yellowed envelope with a sea star drawn on the back side of it.

“This letter is very important,” she said. “But I don’t remember why. Will you read it for me, please? I can’t find my glasses.”

The policeman opened the envelope.

“It’s empty,” he said. “Maybe it’s in the bag.”

The old lady turned her bag over and shook it. A thread of beads, a leather purse with some coins and a seascape postcard fell out.

“This must be it,” said the policeman and read the postcard aloud.

“Dear Anna!

I am getting better. The doctors say in three weeks I will be able to walk again. I can’t wait, I miss you so much. I will come to you right away.

Your Stanley”

“He never did,” she said. ”I remember now. He died on the day I received this letter.”

“I’m so sorry”, the policeman said. “Heart attack?”

“No, he was shot at the war.”

The policeman looked at the date on the envelope. 1945.

“She must be around ninety,” he thought. “Well, she looks the whole hundred.”

“The letter’s sent from Stanley Jackson. Is it your husband’s name?”

“We never got married. We wanted, of course. After his death I had to marry another man.”

“Sent to Anna Wagner.” The policeman shook his head. “Certainly, you have moved from this address. Ma’am, please, try to remember your husband’s name.”

“He called me Annie. But he didn’t love me. This is why I left him.”

“When did you leave him?”

“When I saw him kissing the maid. She was young, and he made her his mistress. Such a shame!”

The policemen rubbed his forehead. “But you said you called for your husband and he wasn’t there.”

“Oh, I called him to say my son died in a car crash. But he wasn’t there. He was at the ski resort.”

The policeman dialed a number on his telephone. “Send me someone from social service. The lady needs some place to stay. It will take a while. She doesn’t remember anything.”

“I remember everything. Every minute of the funeral, every second of it. It was the last time when I saw my boy. He loved sea stars, just like his father. I put the sea star Stanley sent me into his coffin. That day I lost everything. Yes, I remember now. On that very day I knew I was lost.”

“Hey Johnny!” Another policeman entered the room. “We received a phone call. Anna Mattson is missing in the Maple Road Nursing Home. She got lost during the group excursion on the seaside. The description fits, the patient has Alzheimer’s. It must be her. ”

“Yes, it must be her. Tell them we found her.”

“You found me, you think,” she sighed. “It’s an empty shell, my boy. Please help me to get up from this chair.”

Sketching, Writing 101

View from the Porch

I was sitting on the porch when the police car arrived. The fat man in a black suit and two policemen entered Mrs. Pauley’s house and brought her out. Many people gathered on the street to watch the car carrying Mrs. Pauley away. Three months ago when her husband died the crowd was much bigger. Everybody came up to her to say nice words and give her a hug. Today everybody kept silent and stood at a distance.

I wish she’d stay. Mrs. Pauley is always nice. She’s so old she can barely walk on her own, but she bakes the best cakes in the neighborhood. We always buy one at the Spring Fair.

Mom said they will bring her to the home. But she has her home already. Why do they move her to another one?

Dad said they will take better care of her there than her own sons who never gave her a cent, and that’s why she went into debt. I never met her sons. They are always too busy to visit her, Mrs. Pauley says. She has many photos of them on the wall.

I wonder who will take care of her cats while she’s away. She has three, Snowball, Patty and Mr. Fatson. I like Mr. Fatson the most. He can climb the trees and once he caught a mouse. He jumped on it like a tiger! He’s pretty wild. I hope Mom will allow me to take him home. I will play with him after school, and when Mrs. Pauley goes out of her debt she can take him back.

The people started going away. I waved at my friend Tony who was still standing there with his dad, then got up from the porch and went to the kitchen. I need to talk to Mom about Mr. Fatson.

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Sketching, Writing 101

The Elevator

I pressed the elevator button and stared at the numbers changing one another and telling me that it was going down.

“What if it fell?” I thought. “Would everybody die?” I shook my head. “Strange thoughts flash through my mind sometimes.”

The elevator door opened and I came in. Some seconds later I stepped out at my floor and stumbled on a small group of people clustered next to my neighbor’s apartment. The door was open, and a 4-year-old girl was crying in the arms of an old lady.

“It’s ok. Everything will be fine.” The old lady was stroking the girl’s hair and looking at a man with a bag full of groceries, obviously her husband.

“She fell on the floor, unconscious,” a woman in green sweats said to me. “Her daughter couldn’t open the door, so they broke it.”

“What? Who ‘they’? Who broke the door?” I asked.

“She worked too hard after her husband left her, that’s why the stroke.”

Two paramedics went out of the apartment pushing a stretcher covered with the white sheet. “They broke the door!” I finally got it. We all watched the paramedics and the stretcher disappear in the elevator.

“He left her for another woman. He went back to Turkey,“ the woman in sweatpants was talking again.

“How do you know all that?” I asked her. “She barely speaks English. Oh, spoke, I guess.”

“Anny from the second floor told me.”

“Who is Anny? And how does she know?”

“Everybody knows her husband went back to Turkey. And now she’s dead.”

“What about the girl? What will happen to her?”

“The social worker is on the way,” the old lady said. “The paramedics made a call. We just have to wait for a while”. She sighed. “There’s nothing left to do.”

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