A flash fiction, a micro read, a sawn-off tale… or something else. Call it what you will, here’s a short short story…
Reach for love
The first word was final. Yet the second word smoked the first. Prognoses jarred in the mind of us both going by our silence. I asked myself, ‘Is that like diagnosis? And why is it plural?’
I held my head firm but fired a glance, my eyes tracing dot-to-dot all over dad. He was blinking, processing words, or that moment, or the future, or all of it. Perhaps the same words that clanked around my skull – muzzling the audible tick of the clock on the wall and easing the silence.
The three of us had sat together, apart, quietly on cold, practical seats. The Specialist had held his poker face: no visible tick, no break in eye contact, a past master at this endgame. Of the questions that could be answered, all had been answered by both parties. It had been a soporific back-and-forth, almost a dialogue, it had duality. I had been present as a sense check, a sounding board, a son.
For several weeks Dad had been muddled: everyday words beyond his reach, his speech an unbridled creative surge. Wondrous words never before heard.
A beguiling lingo.
‘Planget 1 and Planget 2.’
A gobbledygook framing unknown unknowns.
My haphazard, poetic guess: he started speaking in tongues as his mind soared from a shrinking skull toward an endless horizon.
Sometimes my voice was an echo, at times more external like a chorus to his soliloquy. Perhaps there were moments when our two brains were like one, in sync. Yet for about a fortnight I had fumbled any unravelling of dad’s knotted speech. I spy-hopped across oceans of stories – increasingly as a dragonfly skimming dad’s serene pauses. He seemed to have been puzzling out both the grave and the mundane, definitely the decades.
‘All that time’, a memorable quote, a long gaze.
We laughed an awful lot.
Looking back at that pivotal meeting I can hear everything in detail: each word breaking the ambient hiss of silence in the room, or that which gets mistaken for silence just as so many things get muddled. Noise in the air merges with muffled TV audio from the waiting area. Indiscernible human speech gnaws at the foot of the door. My deep breaths, calm clearings of throat, scant interjections.
I can hear myself doing what I had done on that day: looking for dad although he had already gone. There, as elsewhere, I had knowingly soaked up each blink and the rise-and-fall of his jumper marking breaths, and hugged him goodbye with a gaze – one type among so many farewells.
I can picture again the Specialist in my peripheral vision, looking back-and-forth between dad and myself. I stay focused on dad yet I visualise what I hold in my hand, out of sight: the prognoses, the words being recorded, my phone. It was illicit yet vital – dad may have gotten stuck on the first word, perhaps the second, doubtless the opening line or two.
By the close of that day the prognoses had gained a lustre of reality. In the days that followed dad and I were able to listen over: to glimpse understanding, certainty, truth – or at least to rehydrate any pruned memories and help un-pickle any pause. The audio app had thieved privacy yet aired intimacy – like the give-and-take of steroids; how they had boosted dad back to us, despite the sinkhole swirl of unstoppable decline.
Such recordings prevented any folie-à-deux. Our two brains could meld together again, to bridge temporary latticework that held fast against the sludge. We were two halves of an hourglass, nudged over to the horizontal. We could stop time. We laughed at mysteries, enjoyed puzzles. We could climb a mountain and look into the wind. We could reach for love.
P.s. An audio version is freely available so if you prefer to give your eyes a rest and exercise your ears, or if you appreciate multi-sensory experiences, please spy-hop over to The MacGuffin (it’s a free site, and I adopted a pseudonym).