Friday, July 23, 2010

Memento Mori

The doctor read aloud: The RNA extracted from the formalin-fixed brain tissue identified a viral variant in the nucleotide sequence-

“Please,” Ann interrupted. “What is it?”

He looked at the mother of his eight-year-old patient with compassion evident in his heavy-lidded young eyes and shook his head. “It's rabies,” he said after a exhalation of breath, and watched as she hunched forward and brought one hand to her mouth while gripping the metal arm of the chair with the other.


Several weeks after her daughter returned from a happy vacation at her best friend's summer  house in the mountains, she complained of pain in the knuckles on her left hand. Ann had not wanted to let Janie go, but the other girl's family promised to take very good care of the children. Since Ann's childhood summers had meant working on the family farm and her adult summers as a single parent now meant working long hours in a hot city, she pushed aside her worries and agreed to let her daughter spend the two weeks with them. Janie had shouted “Yessss!” and hugged her before running to phone her friend with the good news. Ann smiled as she heard Janie laughing and discussing possible activities. Apparently swimming and telling ghost stories were part of “Plan Fun.”


The throb in Janie's hand progressed to acute pain and infection throughout her body and later, violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, and depression. Alone at home, Ann lay awake night after night while Janie's doctors treated one possible diagnosis after another. Hopeful one moment, despairing in the next when the day's remedies proved false.

“You will need post exposure prophylaxis immediately,” the doctor said, and walked over to help her get up from the chair.  “But...there is nothing we can do to stop the disease for her. I am so very sorry.”

Ann stood and brushed her hands against her silk skirt, smoothing down the pleats. She looked at the doctor's hand stretching to touch her shoulder and turned away. “I know it's not a diagnosis anyone wants to hear,” he said as he lowered his hand and tapped the file on his desk.

“Never.” Ann walked out into the hall and left the door open behind her.

“Goodbye, Mommy!” Janie said all those weeks ago as she ran to the car and climbed in the backseat where her friend waited. She looked out the window and waved. “Don't be sad. I'll bring you back a present. I'm not going away forever, you know,” and blew a kiss to her mother, who put out her right hand in a pantomime of catching and rubbing it against her cheek. 


Ann now leaned her forehead against the door to Janie's hospital room, where she lay in a coma, and did not wipe her eyes before she went to the nurse's station to receive the first in a series of injections.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fabulous Flash Award

I am so grateful to the lovely and wonderful Karen Schindler for her bestowal of the Fabulous Flash Award, an idea Jon Strother had that would, in his own words, "spotlight some folks I feel deserve recognition for their, well… fabulous flash fiction."

So, many thanks Karen . . . and Jon!

Now I must pass it on to four writers. With great delight, here is my list:

Sam Adamson whose writing just captivated me from his very first flash story. His ongoing serial has fairies, pixies, gnomes, and an esoteric bookstore all set in a northern town in the United Kingdom, and it is just a treat to read.

Marc Nash  is another gifted writer from the UK. He is a wordsmith of the highest order. It's all about the language with him. His stories are lush, at times lyrical, at times dark, and always leaves one feeling sated with the fecundity of the read.

Tony Noland is not afraid to experiment in his writing. I'm happy to say that whether it is science fiction, noir, love story, horror, etc., Tony's work is a strong example of excellent writing.

Jen Brubacher As she says in her bio, she's a librarian who writes fiction. What better combination, no? She's a wonderful writer whose flash fiction spans genres, and I look forward to reading anything she writes. She's that good!

Please take some time to visit these wonderful writers. I can assure you that you will enjoy their fabulous flash fiction!

Friday, July 09, 2010


Martha Frick sat on the edge of the yellow and orange flower-patterned chair Billy bought for five dollars at a yard sale and waited to accept condolences from the handful of mourners. The very chair where Billy was sitting when the stuffed and mounted moose head broke away from the wall and struck and killed him.

She closed her eyes. “Look,” Billy had said one evening not long ago after he called her in and pointed up at his newest acquisition.

“It looks great, doesn't it? And the guy at the flea market didn't charge for it. Just gave it to me on account of my being a good customer.”

He took her hand. “The chair will look real good under it. Help me push it.”

Martha frowned and pushed him away.

“I'm tired of all the junk you bring home!”

Her husband just smiled.

“Junk? You may think so, but remember that one man's junk is - ”

“Another man's treasure. I know, Billy,” she said, and went to find the pillow and blanket for him to use for when he slept on the sofa.

Until they moved from the city to the rural fishing town of his birth, Billy held a mid-level job in a government agency. Retirement brought them permanently to his childhood home. Martha volunteered at the nursery school; Billy spent his days treasure hunting.

Now, sitting and waiting for this day to end, she shook her head no when her daughter asked if she wanted something to drink. Martha looked around the room, at every available surface crowded with other people's unwanted detritus. She nodded when her son asked if she was ready and prepared herself as each mourner, in turn, approached, took her hand, and murmured words they thought would comfort.

“He will be missed, you can be sure of that.”

“Billy Frick was a good man.”

“Let me know if you need me to do anything for you.”

Reverend Hopwood was the last to lean over her. “We must remember that God works in mysterious ways,” he said as he squeezed her shoulder, but flushed in embarrassment when Martha laughed.

She did not expect to see any of them again. In several days the moving company would bring her things back to the city. The truck from the thrift shop would take the rest, including the screwdriver she last used to loosen the screws holding the bracket of the mount.

Friday, July 02, 2010

When In Rome

Louis emerged from the Men's Room in the restaurant to hear his mother exchanging private telephone numbers with someone she met only scant hours ago.

“Please do call,” he heard her tell the woman whose name he could not remember. Something to do with Switzerland, he thought. Or was it nature?

“Let us go now, shall we?” He coaxed his mother as he helped her into her coat and nodded his goodbye to the woman. Berne? Oh, no. Fern. Her name is Fern. Nature, then.

He led his mother to the front door and before she stepped over the threshold, she turned to smile at her new friend.

“I've been told I give good phone.” she said and laughed before Louis grasped her hand and led her away.
The car ride was a quiet one, as usual. Louis glanced at his mother when he stopped at the last light before home. She moved her lips in silent conversation. Probably speaking to Father again, he thought and surprised himself by a fluttery bitterness he felt in his chest. It never was difficult for her to talk with Louis when he was a child. But as the years added growth, departure, and distance to her life, they also subtracted her ability to verbally demonstrate easiness with her son. She became shyly hesitant with the adult model. Now, after bringing her to live with him after she had escaped from the retirement center several times, their talks more closely resembled light, impersonal banter.
As he lay reading in bed later that night, Louis heard his mother laughing. Another talk with Deidre, he guessed. While pleased that his mother harbored friendship for his ex-wife, he never understood how anyone could speak for hours on the phone and enjoy it.
“Goodnight, dear,” he heard her say, then all was quiet.
Louis placed his reading glasses on the nightstand and leaned over to turn off the light. He settled into his pillows and closed his eyes. But moments later, his mother's soft pacing in her bedroom on the second floor interrupted the languid touch of his relaxation, and he sat up and turned on the light.
It's one of  those nights
, he thought.
Louis reached for his bathrobe, intent on going to his mother's room with tea and sitting with her in silence until she tired.
However, after looking across the room at the telephone on his desk, he shook his head. He left the bathrobe folded at the foot of the bed and walked over to his favorite chair.
His mother picked up on the second ring.

Picture courtesy of Cute and Cool BlogStuff