Hard to Remember (Flash Fiction)

Prompt: “Lives” by Modest Mouse


Its hard to remember that life is short. It feels so long sometimes.

These thoughts curling like smoke inside her skull.

Christine lit another cigarette, trying not to notice the small but growing pile of crushed butts on the deck railing. She promised Mark she wouldn’t smoke again, but it was an unfair promise to make. It hadn’t started as a desire for the cigarette, the nicotine. What drew her at first was the little spark, that small, incendiary flash of light near her fingers as she struck another match.

Her hands shook, just a little, before that small ignition. Mark hadn’t noticed yet, that slight palsy creeping into her hands. When he did, she would tell him not to worry, that it is was just the usual anxiety setting in.

And there were times when she could let herself believe that was true. That the faint tremor at her periphery, minor really, was no concern. And the way her fingers steadied once the match was lit and the cigarette kissed with flame made it easier to trust.

But trust is not truth.Truth is more complicated. Truth is the way her right foot dragged the ground sometimes when she walked. Truth was the pins and needles in her toes, the way her entire foot sometimes felt like an anchor plunged in a dark, cold sea.

She hadn’t seen a doctor yet. Where was the point in that? They could only run tests. They could only place her somewhere on the mathematical spectrum of possibility.

Christine had been through it before with her father. She had carried him to every appointment, each visit a bit more to manage each time as the withering penetrated and ate him alive from the edges.

There were medications. Blizzards of prescription pads. Endless cocktails of pills, large and small. The Blue Chokers. The Pink Pukers. And the mysterious purple that always seemed to lodge sideways in the throat, refusing to be swallowed.

And between medications, the interminable scans and pictures. The intrusion of cameras and images as the team of technologists mapped and photographed her father’s interior self. She had seen her father turned into a ghost before his time. The furtive image of bone and muscle and sinew. The constant reminder of things inside that would eventually come out. And the feeling that the images and scans were all futile. So much useless espionage into the unseen corridors of her father’s inner works, each documenting a new stage, a new progression.

Perhaps it was better not to know. Christine thought of Mark. Some things are better hidden.

Except that everything hidden gets revealed some time.

This was the brutal truth of life. Everything hidden gets revealed.

Christine crushed the cigarette, lit another and inhaled, waiting for Mark to come home.

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