Hey, back here after a long time and am hooked to the world of flash fiction. Don't let it's brevity make you doubt the many virtues of it's verity, it justifies and ennobles the power of words, as only a few words/ lines strung together, bring about an evocative piece of prose.
I was fascinated by Camille LaGuire's flash fiction contest hold on his website 'The Daring Novelist' & here, is my entry for it, 'Goodbye, Kids.' A little description: It's a bleak sci-fi story, taking place in a world, where organs trading is a booming business and an old man struggles to come to terms with his mortality and his own morals, as he realize he could actually do some good to his family, if he bid them adieu.
‘No, not me, I won’t be reduced to the vestige of the man I am’, Adam promised himself that he wouldn’t live long enough to see himself or his loved ones suffer. Yet, he stood there, holding his chest, curdling in pain. He had seen his father gasp for every breath of his life, struggle and then, disappear into a lifeless stupor for hours, as if he’d passed away; and then, suddenly, he would cough again. His coughing was the only sign of life his pale body showed, the same body with which he saw his father run to work, take him to the museums, piggy back him home, to save a few cents. Yet, he found himself walking down the same path as his father. His catheter hurt, he needed Maria. But, he stayed quiet; he could hear her cry again. It had become a ritual of sorts, for Maria and Kael to start their days like this.
‘We tried that and it’s not working. Will you stop crying? You aren’t making it easier for me.’
Tugging to the things she had bought for their baby, new shoes, a blue sweater, and little stuffed toys. She pleaded for more time. Kael was stern, and she was inconsolable. Adam knew she needed some time, that this too shall pass. He knew what it felt like, to outlive your own child. He had done it before and too much his dismay, twice.
‘We have to sell it all, seeing it every day does you more harm. Pull yourself together, we need the money too, Grandpa needs his medicine and with the sales at the pet shop, it ain’t happening.’
With each of his sentence, she wailed in pain and despair. Adam wanted to yell at Kael, ask him to be patient. His body did not provide him such luxuries and even if it did, how could he? Kael was a good man, to both him and Maria. He wasn’t family, yet he gave him sponge baths and held his hand when his chest hurts. It was only the second time, Kael got him angry. Kael bought home a brochure from the International Organs Council and said they would pay a good deal for Adam’s body. Adam was angry, bitter at how this man could be so cruel and calculating. Yet, it took Adam more time than he had thought, to come to terms and accept that, he was doing these kids no good. Why should they spend their youth serving him? What good was he to them? Nothing but a parasite. And, it was Maria who said, ’He is family, all that’s left of my family...our family.’ Kael never raised the question again. He was a good man, of course.
Adam picked up the brochure from the trash, leaping through it he realized how his abstinence would be generously rewarded, his kidneys and body weren’t a dime a dozen! They would send people over as per the donors’ convenience. To his relief, the ‘process’ was relatively painful and he'd leave all this pain behind too. He weighed how the money could help Maria. She could finish college or finally buy an apartment for them. They could finally re-decorate their pet shop. There were many times he got to the phone, but could never manage to dial. He knew, it was the right thing to do, but he wasn’t ready yet. He was ashamed; he wanted to live. Live longer. Despite having outlived everyone, he once knew, he wasn’t ready to give up his own life.
Kael packed the things in boxes he had got from the shop. Maria continued to cry, he seemed distant, but Adam knew, he was only helpless. His heart went out to them; he questioned Maria’s logic of wanting to keep him. He barely met her as a kid, took her to places like normal grandparents or protected her from her mother’s wrath. Yet she nursed him and cared for him, without complaints and always with a smile. She could never finish College, but if she did, he knew she’d surely go places. He remembered her telling him about the baby. For after years, he had felt something like that. To feel joy, hope all over again; to finally feel alive after ages. To see them smile and paint their little house. And, only two weeks later, they found out, they couldn’t have their baby. Tay Sachs or something they said. The details skipped him lately.
Kael finished packing and left to buy postal stamps. Maria dragged herself around the house, preparing meals, cleaning, getting him medicine. Adam remembered her. How she moved like the wind, the grace in her walk and when her baby had to be aborted, it crushed her spirit. Her indomitable spirit, which gave them hope and held them together. Her blue eyes, full of life, turned pale. She barely smiled and when she did, only to herself, and one could tell, she was still thinking of her baby. Adam had seen people die before, but this, he couldn’t bear to watch.
Adam wanted to console Maria and get her to call the Council, but he knew she never would. He always knew what he needed to do and he knew, today, he was going to do it. As she kissed him on his forehead and left for work, Adam removed the brochure under his bed and leapt for the phone. A few steps seemed like miles to him. He couldn’t see the numbers clearly. ‘622-42…was it a 7 or a 9?’ He punched in 7 and waited for an answer, with each ring, his heart beating faster, an effeminate voice greeted him,’ Ivan Rothko’s pest cleaning services, how may I....’ He hung up, without saying sorry, for he needed all his energy, for what was to follow.
Peering at the brochure, he dialed again, 622-429, the phone rang again…