by Sue Blott
(2nd place winner in the NOWW Summer Flash Fiction Contest)
Yahtzee with you is no longer fun. Drunk and blinded by the stinging smoke from your cigarette, you make stupid choices.
I cry out, “Wait!” but you roll again.
“What?” You rub your forehead, study the dice.
“You had Yahtzee! Five fives. Jeez, Larry!”
You giggle-snort and collapse back onto the couch.
I shake my head, sling the dice into the box, shimmy the lid on. I like winning but not at the expense of watching you spiral into stupidity. Together for seven years and you drink more and more until you flake out, leaving me to stub your stinking cigarette out so our house doesn’t burn down.
Time after time, you remember nothing.
I remember everything.
You exhale. “Let’s play that other game.” Smoke coils towards me like a snake about to strike. “Lists.”
“Lists. Okay.” A game that originated from counselling, a way of sharing and learning about each other. On a deeper level, the counsellor suggested.
I’m delaying going to bed. Why I don’t know. You’ll fall asleep in no time, perhaps in the middle of an embrace so I have to push the weight of you off me, your hand slapping my stomach as you roll over. Not on purpose, of course. That’s a no-brainer for me. Never physical abuse, just a gradual withering of love and respect.
When you choose a list, your favourite, I know I can’t tell you the last thing on mine.
“Hhmmm, let me think. I need tea. I’ll make you coffee—”
“ ’Sokay.” You point to the half-full scotch glass.
“So not okay,” I mumble as I walk into the kitchen, considering my list. The first things are a given. The cats. Marmalade—he’d never make it out on his own with that lame hind leg—then Tinkers and Siam. My journals, photo albums … Once you were my first thing on “A List of Things I’d Rescue From Our Burning House”. You still assume you are.
I know I’m top of your list. I am your list. You’ve never cared much for the cats.
I pour my tea, stir your coffee, my thoughts swirling with the dark liquid. How can I tell you that the last thing on my list is you? Until I can, all we’ll do is play games with each other.
In the living room, you’re sprawled on the couch, your lips strumming to snores. Drool glistens at the corner of your mouth. The cigarette has burned itself out in the ashtray. I watch you, know the peace a mother feels when her child is asleep at last. I cover you with the woollen throw scattered with blue hearts, your favourite from our Maritime trip. I tuck in your toes. You hate your feet to be cold. Leaving your coffee on the table, I carry my tea to bed where Marmalade will have warmed my pillow.
Tomorrow, I think, maybe tomorrow I can tell you the last thing on my list.
Sue Blott just loves writing! She is a member of a few Thunder Bay writing groups. Although Sue writes in many genres, she particularly delights in the challenges of flash fiction: how to convey so much in so few words. Not unlike this bio.
by Lisa N. Jones
(1st place in the NOWW Summer Flash Fiction Contest)
“There’s a reservoir in New Mexico,” she says, her eyes searching the harbour, watching the waves as they wrinkle under a heavy sky. “They flooded the area a hundred years ago. I think they were trying to irrigate the desert. Anyways, it was there a long time, and people forgot how it came to be there in the first place. Because really, why would it matter? It was just there.”
I nod absently. We are sitting on a bench at the Marina, watching sailboats tack gracefully out of the breakwater and into the open lake. Against the slate blue of Superior, the sails are stark wings drifting effortlessly. There’s no sense that they are struggling against the chop, even as they pass the lighthouse at the end of the breakwall. It all seems too easy, I think. I shift on the bench, uncomfortable on the hard seat.
”A few years ago,” she continues after a pause, “there was a drought. Not sure why, but it happened. All this water, gone. Must have terrified the locals.”
She pauses again; I wait. I know there’s a reason for this story. The best I can do for her is wait and listen. I am helpless to do otherwise.
“And you know what?” she asks, turning to me suddenly. Her voice is choked with trapped emotion suddenly released, the edges raw and sharp. “When the fucking thing dried up, guess what they found?”
I shake my head; I still don’t understand where this is going. My throat is tight and sore. I will not cry, I think. I cannot cry.
“They found a fucking town!” Her volume rises, her voice almost frantic. “A whole bloody town! No one knew it was there, not for a hundred years. Who forgets a fucking town? It even had a fucking church!”
I shift to face her, trying hard to meet her eyes. All I see are tiny cells, moving slowly but relentlessly, shape-shifting, gathering, splitting, attaching themselves to any available surface. For her, it is her pancreas. Terminal, they said. Treatment will prolong life, but not give any quality. Time to make decisions.
The tears fall freely down her cheeks: she who remained calm in the doctor’s office, thanked the oncology team, walked with quiet poise as we left the hospital. Now comes the wave of despair, and her words are gasps between sobs that grow louder.
“It’s not dying that scares me – I get that. I just don’t want to be forgotten. Promise you’ll never forget me.”
What can I say? I will always remember her voice? Her face will stay fresh in my mind? As long as I live, I will tell her story? It’s not enough. In this moment, I can promise nothing, so I nod, my own tears uncontrollable. Her head sinks as the sobs come harder, and I hold her, shaking with my grief, as we watch the water begin to rise slowly, steadily.
Lisa N. Jones: Born and raised in Dorion, Lisa has been a teacher for 30 years. She currently teaches International Baccalaureate English and Philosophy at Churchill High School. Along with four cats, three deer, and at least five raccoons, Lisa lives in Shuniah with her husband and daughter. Reservoir is the first piece of writing she has ever entered in a writing contest.