Flash Fiction . . .
Now A Handkerchief
by Maximilian Winters
It’d made a sound when it hit the ground. A soft ksh, ice fading in the wind, a single raindrop against the stone, just enough to hear. Just enough to raise a tussled head, enough to pick up the cherriescolor cloth between two fingers, just enough to hand it over to the woman in worn furs and tight pants. He couldn’t describe that sound, the sound of silk landing on the ground. Maybe, perhaps, it sounded something like a friendly smile, or a quiet conversation when you shouldn’t be talking, or a snicker held just under the breath with a nod and a yes.
It made a different sound wrapped around her neck, frills blowing as the wind picked up her hair. It was hot and alive, defiant of the freezing air, a streak of hot red blood that ran out and blew from her neck with passion, vigor, confidence. It was full of energy, triumphant, calling its name in daring him to look, to see how righteous and true it was. It blew with a will to live, stood for itself, held tight and proud and unstoppable. So did she.
Today it seemed so crimson. It might have shrunk some, in the wind and ice; he could feel the fabric brushing his palms, small enough that it was crushed when he bunched it between them, small enough that the only red was the blood running underneath the paled skin of his fingers. It seemed almost strange when his fingers finally wrenched apart and the red remained, slowly, surely fluttering to the ground.
The ice, already, had begun to fade.
by Vernon Waring
A heat wave in April, days so hot that the thermometer flirts with the nineties, humidity and temperature breaking all records, a time of waiting, of visiting, but not of hope, my mother hooked up to so many things to keep her alive, to keep her breathing, and then there is the stillness of the ICU, a nurse there, fortyish with a beautiful face, angelically beautiful, a pleasant woman with big blue eyes telling me in a hushed tone how all anyone has to do is look at the apparatuses operating to keep my mother alive, including the ventilator, carrying out these functions without which life would not be possible, it is only a matter of days, of hours, of minutes passing by and this nurse is preparing me for it, she even has a worried expression as if my mother was someone she knew and while she speaks with me in a subdued voice I know that only time is deathless, that my mother appears to be in a coma, her eyes closed, sealed off, sometimes the slightest involuntary tremor of her hand occurs suggesting some semblance of life, there are no sounds from her, she cannot speak, she does not even know she’s in this room or that I’m in this room, she seems so alone even with so many of us visiting her at once and then we go home, separately, alone as well, too close to death, we drive home to our own familiarities, I find the car radio intrusive with its inane talk shows, its discordant music, the ceaseless babble of commercials, I shut it off, there is no sound to soothe me . . .
Early the next morning I get the call I know will come, I know it will be my father, his voice groggy and he says two words — “she’s gone” — and repeats it and then says “I’m so sorry . . .” and hangs up, and I look out the window and see that the heat wave is over, trees are swaying, it’s cool for the first time in days, and I watch my neighbor across the street showing his young son how to ride a bike, they’re laughing and I’m oddly distracted, how can that be happening I wonder and then my father calls back, apologetic, sobbing, he didn’t mean to just hang up, he’s out of it, he says, and then his tone turns bitter — “those nurses,” he says, you know of course he’s drinking, he’s been up all night drinking, he probably showed up under the influence at the ICU that very morning and all he can talk about are those “goddamned nurses, they know who I am, I visit there every day and I walked in this morning and they told me she had just passed away and not one of them took the time to say they were sorry, not one person,” he says, for a moment he’s wrapped up in himself, angry at the nurses, and then he says he has to go now and hangs up again, outside it’s a beautiful April morning, the sun is shining, there are no clouds, a beautiful spring day, how can that be I wonder, everything seems so perfect, how is that possible, how . . . ?
First published in Ascent Aspirations Magazine.
“Some Semblance” is one of nineteen stories by Vernon Waring to appear in Ascent Aspirations, a Canadian-based online literary magazine; his poems and stories have also won numerous commendations from New Millennium Writings.
Maximilian Winters is a junior-level student of Creative Writing and History at Colgate University in New York.
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