A Measure of Grace (Flash Fiction)

There is a thing growing inside his head. It takes the words sometimes. Sometimes there are blinding headaches, brilliant flashes of light. He feels wretched and gets dizzy and pukes until all the insides of him are bruised and slick with bile.

Still, there is joy. While there is life there is joy.

Most days he is content to sit on a chair on their back porch and watch the trees grow. It takes a lot of patience, but if you can muster enough to sit for quite a while, you will be rewarded with the sight of the green branches reaching up and up and up toward the sunlight.

It is the paradox of his last hours, how ever many there may end up to be. That when time is running short, only then he is able to slow down and pay attention, to really notice the ways things grow and change all around.

And she is no exception. He loves to sit on their porch and watch her sitting there with him, perhaps reading a book, perhaps working a crossword. It doesn’t matter what she is doing. He is glad she is doing it here with him.

It wasn’t fair to ask her to spend so much time just sitting, but it was a thing he could not bring himself to mention. Her being here was the only thing that kept him here. He loved sharing these moments, short and fleeting as they were, with her.

He doesn’t read much anymore. Or write. The words had stopped almost entirely. But there was so much goodness in the quality of his observation. The time spent just sitting and noticing.

Someday, soon enough, the abyss will reach up and claim him. And he will pass into that negative space. Not darkness so much as absence. Emptiness. There was the space where he was and then the space in which he wasn’t.

He hoped he wouldn’t feel anything. That the passing wouldn’t be painful but if there was meant to be pain he hoped he might endure it with a measure of grace.

And when he fell into that final dark chasm, he hoped it might not be cold. That is might be warm, welcoming and then erasure.

And how like a dream, that upon waking, dissipates like smoke. And how frail this thing he had come to call his life. And how he hoped upon dying that he would not look back on this time with any kind of regret. The wrong things done. The right things not done.

“Are you thirsty?” she asks him. She has learned not to ask what he is thinking. He is already living in a place where she cannot follow.

Enough to have her back home with him again. To know the joy that comes from being her father and from seeing the strong, powerful, happy creature she has become. Enough to look into the future and see at least a few more moments like this shared. Together. And the touch of her hand on his was solace.

“Yes,” he tells her but not because the thing growing inside his head has taken all the words. Because sometimes Yes is everything that needs to be said.

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