Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, A Gentle Touch by Bill Chance

He remembers those vanished years. As though looking through a dusty window pane, the past is something he could see, but not touch. And everything he sees is blurred and indistinct.

― Wong kar-wei, In the Mood for Love

Mojo Coffee, Magazine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana (click to enlarge)

A Gentle Touch

The drugs didn’t work. The stents failed to keep the flow going. Time had wracked its fatal damage in its efficient and inexorable way.

Nobody really told him what was happening but he knew. Especially the way they were gathering around him, a circle of faces either somber and quiet or swallowed in a false cheer. When they told him his sister was flying in from Seattle he knew the end was very close. She had not been on a plane in fifty years.

He had so many tubes stuck in him that when he would move the slightest bit one or another would be jostled and he would be hit by a horrific beeping from the machine attached to that conduit. If he was alone, he would suffer, palming the call button again and again for what seemed like an eternity until a nurse would finally come and turn off the infernal sound. It was worse if others were in the room – they would cluck and scatter like chickens until the nurse came – their protestations bothered him more than the beeping.

The balance of his life between future and past, between memory and hope, had now shifted completely to memory and the past. There was no future left and no hope.

And finally his memory was beginning to collapse and implode, fewer and fewer recollections were left. The past would slowly go to black and white, like an old television, then begin to fade until only a handful of echoes were left.

His life had been full. His marriage had lasted over half a century. He had been blessed with children, grand children, great grandchildren. He had a few victories and many, many defeats.

He was shocked, however, at what remained after all these accomplishments and catastrophes had faded.

Many decades ago his company sent him to a multi-evening seminar to learn a new accounting software program. He had met a woman there. She was sitting in the back near where he was and he noticed her walking to the front table to get supplies.

After the classes some of the employees would grab a coffee and talk about the software and how much they didn’t want to use it. Each time the woman seemed to end up sitting next to him at the large round table.

The two of them enjoyed talking to each other and he felt strangely excited on the drive home. After the last day of the class a handful of folks decided to keep meeting in the evenings – both he and the woman were in that group.

It was the start of a decade long friendship. The meeting became the high point of his week. The two of them would almost always sit next to each other. He remembered that sometimes she would laugh at something or make a point and reach out and gently touch him – on the shoulder or leg.

Nothing more ever came of the two of them. They had never even met outside of that group. He decided that they simply enjoyed each other’s company. He couldn’t say why.

The friendship eventually faded and finally dissolved completely. He hadn’t spoken to her in twenty years. Now, in his weakened state, he could barely remember her name and wasn’t sure the hazy memory was right.

But as the last few days fell away, the times he spent with her loomed larger and larger in his mind. His family wondered about the otherworldly expression on his face and the fact he paid less and less attention to them.

“He’s losing his mind,” they all said. And shook their heads sadly.

They weren’t wrong. But he was aware enough to wonder why it was this particular set of memories that were filling his last few miserable, precious days. Pleasant, bittersweet memories. Something that, at the time, meant little in the flow of days.

As his heart struggled, weakened, and finally gave out his final thoughts were of a quiet laugh and the innocent gentle touch of a friend’s hand along his leg.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, The Boatman by Purnima Bala

“This boat that we just built is just fine –

And don’t try to tell us it’s not

The sides and the back are divine –

It’s the bottom I guess we forgot”

― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

(Click to Enlarge) These boats full of Chihuly glass aren’t really floating on White Rock Lake like it looks. They are on the Arboretum infinity pool – beautiful.

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, March 23, 2001:

The border between the US and Mexico is a big deal in most places – controlled bridges, customs, crowds, fences, razor wire, a complete difference from one side to another.

Here in Big Bend the border is a greenish sluggish river, barely waist deep, and the crossing is a decrepit old rowboat called “La Enchilada.” A ride across the Rio Grande cost $2. “Pay me on the other side,” the boat’s captain told me – apparently to avoid the onus of doing business in a US National Park. Two quick strokes on his paddle and we were in Mexico.

A busy crowd on the gravel bar was hawking handmade jewelry, walking sticks, and rides by burro, horse, or pickup truck into the village. I walked past the jabbering, bargaining crowd (a handful of elderly tourists were renting some burros) and hoofed it the mile or so into the village.

It was a dusty, sandy walk through the floodplain thicket of mesquite into the village of Boquillas itself. It’s a dirt-poor border town, a few short dusty gravel streets lined with scattered adobe huts. Each hut has its own table covered with rock crystals, scavenged from the nearby mountains, for sale. The main street has one restaurant, Falcon’s, and a handful of cantinas – some very shady looking.

Above the village rears the amazing escarpment of the Sierra del Carmen. Those cliffs, jagged like broken teeth dominate the skyline of the entire park, visible clear up to the headquarters thirty miles away.

I settled into the breezeway of Falcon’s – surprisingly cool once I was out of the burning sun and shaded by the roof of traditional vigas. A few others were already there – a big group of tourists sitting at one long table and a couple of local Texas ranchers with their families – the men were bargaining with the owner of the restaurant over the sale of a pickup truck.

Two rooms selling really bad Mexican handicrafts flanked the open breezeway. I had hoped to buy Candy a birthday present there, but there wasn’t anything worth looking at. At the end of one room was the restaurant kitchen, which looked like one from a small apartment. The owner’s daughter stood there looking bored and cranked out the food. She was cooking on a Coleman camping stove powered by white gas. I don’t think the restaurant had electricity. One tourist asked to, “see the menu” and the daughter replied, “tacos y burritos.” Each were three for a dollar.

I ordered a Corona and a plate with three tacos and three burritos. The food was greasy and good – small handmade corn tortillas served with a bowl of diced jalapenos and onions. The beer was cold. I sat and ate and drank my beer and wrote a little in my notebook.

Local children selling little woven bracelets carried on pieces of cardboard swarmed the restaurant. I bought two for Nicholas, one said Big Bend the other Boquillas. The pesky kids were really bothering the big table of tourists. Eventually the wife of the restaurant’s owner came out and shooed them away – even the few that were standing around my table.

El hombre escribiendo!” she shouted at the children near me.

After finishing a second beer I decided to walk around a bit more, having to constantly fend off the little street vendors. I decided I was still thirsty so I stopped by one of the cantinas for a cold Dos Equis. It was a roomy bar with tables and two pool tables at the back; Spanish rap music blared out of an unseen boombox somewhere. The long bar was lined with every imaginable brand of cheap Mexican tequila, mescal, and sotol.

A sunburned Mexican drunk conned me into buying him a Tecate – then left me alone. A couple of American college girls came in for beers and then three guys wearing Chi Omega Intramurals T-shirts came in for shots and bought a round for the girls.

“Where you from?” the bartender asked the girls.

“Indiana.”

An older couple came in and bought four bottles of some odd colored liquor. The bartender carefully wrapped it so they could get it back across the border.

The owner came out from the back and sat with me and we spoke a bit, mixing English and Spanish. It is so rare that I speak Spanish anymore my mouth felt odd forming the sounds. The Mexican beer helped.

He made some rude remarks in Spanish about the girls at the bar; then asked me where I was from. I told him I drove through Monahans to get to Big Bend.

“Big prison in Monahans,” the owner said, “I have nephew in prison there.”

Then he indicated the sunburned drunk, “He is the police here, only police in Boquillas.”

I considered asking to see his badge but thought better of it. With the sleazy cantina, the dusty streets, and the mountains rising high overhead things were getting way too Treasure of the Sierra Madre feeling for me, so I decided to head back to Texas.

I bought a couple of walking sticks for the kids and a bag of quartz crystals for Lee’s rock collection from a woman in one adobe hut then walked back to the crossing and the rowboat. I shared the ride with the couple that had bought the liquor – they said it was a Mexican version of Blue Contreau or something, and they used it in Margaritas at parties, “Everybody comes over and loves our Margaritas!” the woman said.

I felt dusty and some water sounded good so my next drive was over a little way to the parking lot for the Hot Springs. A short walk down an interesting trail and I was at the springs. The hot water comes up from below into a little pool built out into the Rio Grande, a remnant of the old spa on the site. You can’t camp or park overnight there, but a group of canoeists were set up on the opposite bank, in Mexico, and had swum across to enjoy the hot water. The spring felt wonderful.

I chatted a bit with the canoeists. Two of them wanted to buy some wine and do a hike along the river so I gave them a ride to the Rio Grande Village store. By then the sun was starting to set so I made the long drive back to the Basin and my camp. Another good day, my last in Big Bend this trip.

This was written six months before the 9/11 attack. The border is, of course, very different now.

And today’s flash fiction:

The Boatman by Purnima Bala

from MoonPark Review

Purnima Bala Twitter

Purnima Bala Homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Dream of the Rising Sea by Juan Morales

“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”

― Anais Nin

Caribbean Sea

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, March 10, 1999:

Lee and I walked the crowded beach in the middle of town to kill the time. That little bugger walked for two hours straight, completely wearing me out. We both saw all sorts of interesting stuff.

Lee saw seashells, bits of colored rock, the best of which he stuffed into his pockets. He considered it a great honor to find jellyfish washed up on the beach, of which there were many. There were pet dogs to pet, jetties to walk out on, giant waves to marvel at. He finally wore me out and I sat down on a log and watched him standing along at the surf’s edge, watching the waves. He walked back to me and said, “Daddy, I don’t understand things, how things work, how they make big buildings and machines that work.”

I noticed other things: the drunk leaning over on the seawall bench next to the souvenir piers and puking, thin yellow vomit streaming out ’til he must have been empty, then popping up and asking passers-by “Hey, man, can I please borrow a dollar-twenty five, man,” his buddy, sleeping the sleep of the dead on a piece of old carpet on the sand below him, two other drunks dropping beer bottles down on his head trying to wake him, a family that looked like rejects from Jerry Springer having a heated argument, backwoods accents so strong I couldn’t even make out what they were saying, one female surfer, a beginner, was having a lot of trouble keeping her skimpy top on. I don’t understand how things work either.

And today’s flash fiction:

Dream of the Rising Sea by Juan Morales

from Bending Genres

Juan Morales Twitter

Pilgrimage Magazine – Juan Morales Editor

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, VHS by Bill Chance

“More pathetic than the digital age is the people who love it. They buy right into the “newer is always better” ideology and they can’t seem to grasp that the fun of VHS tapes, super 8 film, darkroom photography and vinyl records is far more worthwhile and human than the cold, high-tech atmosphere of everything being digitized. As the 21st century progresses, yeah, we’ll have our Netflix and our cellular phones and our artificial intelligence and our implanted microchips – and future generations will have lost something valuable. Sadly, they won’t even know what they’ve lost because we’re taking it all away from them.”

― Rebecca McNutt

Recycled Books, Denton, Texas

VHS

Gerard was not a neat person. Far from it. He sort of wanted to be but couldn’t get his head around how to pull it off. His apartment was always a terrible mess – clothes thrown in the corner, sink full of dirty dishes, and he could never remember which was trash day.

He did have a decent TV – a 19 inch Zenith. He had a VCR. A coworker had tried to talk him into buying a Betamax but he had settled, for no real reason, on VHS. The thing had cost him a week’s salary – but it gave him his money’s worth.

Gerard loved movies. He watched one at home almost every night. He worked in a downtown skyscraper and every day, at lunch, he would take the elevator down to the street, cross at a pedestrian light in the middle of the block, and enter the lobby of an ancient limestone building. It had an old-fashioned hallway going front to back lined with little stores – a newsstand, a candy store, a high-end luggage store, a coffee shop – the sort of things that catered to downtown office workers. It also had one of the early video rental places – a small private shop – common until Blockbuster came along and drove them all out of business. It had a meager selection, the boxes displayed on shelves behind the glass counter. To get an actual movie, you had to ask and the clerk would rummage around in drawers, click the cassette into its holder, and then deliver your plastic box by hand.

Purchasing tapes was expensive and they could only afford one copy of any title – so they were usually out of the movies Gerard wanted to rent. Looking through the loose-leaf notebook on the counter, he would have to ask over and over until he stumbled on a title that they had in stock. It was a bit of a pain, but he didn’t mind. He didn’t mind at all.

The clerk was beautiful. To Gerard, she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Pale, quiet, with a thick mane of fire-red hair – Gerard would stare as she rummaged around looking for a tape. This was the high point of his day. He was actually disappointed when she had one for him on the first try.

He was a very busy man and sometimes he had to take work home. On those days he knew he would be too busy to watch a movie but he’d rent one anyway – simply to spend a few minutes with the clerk. He also had to travel, often on short notice.

There were two women living in the apartment across the hall from him. He had helped the two out when they were in trouble with a couple of angry, violent boyfriends and they owed him a huge pile of favors. They were attracted to that kind of men and weren’t interested, romantically, in Gerard, but would help him out when they could. One, a beautiful, tall brunette, also worked downtown, only two buildings away from him. When he had to leave town, he would give her his videotape to return for him.

He wondered what the beautiful clerk in the video rental store thought of this woman coming by every now and then and returning his videos. She told him she never said anything to the clerk – just left the tape on the counter and walked out.

Gerard wanted to talk to the redhead so bad but he could not think of any way to do it without looking like an idiot. He was only a customer, one of hundreds. He was sure a lot of them hit on her. He didn’t want to be that guy. He thought, and thought, and thought, then had an idea. He pulled out a piece of paper and scribbled away for a while. Then he grabbed a pen, an envelope, a spare key, and another piece of paper. He went next door to see the girl that sometimes returned his tapes.

“Hey,” he said, “I need you to do me a favor, no big deal.”

“Sure, you have a tape.”

“Yes, I do, but I need another favor and I want you to drop something else off there for me too. First, I want you to copy this – in your own handwriting.”

He handed her the pen and two pieces of paper. She read the note.

“This note says I’m breaking up with you. And returning your key.”

“Yup.”

“It says I’m leaving and you are not to look for me.”

“Of course.”

“It is vicious, it makes me look awful.”

“Sorry.”

“Why the hell?”

“Don’t worry, I have my reasons.”

The woman thought for a minute, then broke out in a smile. She had noticed the clerk, of course.

“OK, sure, I’ll do it.”

She copied the note and Gerard sealed the envelope up with the key.

“Ok, tomorrow take this by the video rental shop and give it to the clerk. Be sure and tell her it’s for me. Oh, and here’s a tape, too.”

“Sure. But only one thing.”

“What?”

“I guess you’ll have to find someone else to take your tapes back when you’re out of town.”

“A price I’ll gladly pay.”

Gerard waited two days before he went down to rent another tape. He was so excited, he could barely breathe on the walk over. He planned to open the envelope, read the note right there, and maybe even cry a little bit. No way the clerk wouldn’t be moved by this. He could talk to her as a person, not a clerk and customer. He would ask her to go for coffee or a drink after work, to “help take his mind off his troubles.” No way could she refuse.

But nothing happened, she rented him the tape, same as always. He wanted so say something, “What about my note?” but realized that he couldn’t.

The days went by and he kept renting and returning and she never said anything. It was getting to be humiliating. He began to think he would have to find another video rental shop. He was even worried about the key. Why did he use a real spare key? The store had his address from the extensive form he had to fill out as a member and customer of the shop. Did somebody else have the note? Would they rob him? He wasn’t really worried though – other than his TV and VCR he didn’t own anything worth stealing and was thinking about new models of each anyway.

Gerard was relieved when a job came up that would take him out of state for a whole week. He dropped his last tape off.

“I won’t be renting for a week, I’m going out of town on business,” he said to the clerk. He hoped she might have some reaction, but only nodded. He decided that when he came back he’d move to another video shop a couple blocks over.

The week out of town was exhausting drudgery. His failure with the video store clerk weighed on him more than it should have. If she would have turned him down, that he could have dealt with, but this, her completely ignoring him, was so much worse. He imagined her throwing his letter in the trash with a sneer.

Gerard returned on a late flight and took a cab home. He was so tired and glad to be home, but he almost dreaded opening his front door. He pulled his suitcase through and turned on the light.

It was a shock. Everything was clean and neat as a pin. His dishes were washed and put up, his garbage was gone, and his dirty clothes had been done and neatly folded. His ratty old shower curtain had even been replaced with a new, fashionable one.

Once the shock had begun to fade, he saw that there was a note taped to the front of his TV. It said:

“If you want me to come over here and watch a movie with you, I will, but I wanted it to be a bit cleaner first.”

At the bottom of the note was stapled a “Free Movie Rental” coupon from the place downtown.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Horsemouth and Aquariumhead by Elizabeth Turner

“Magic

Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,

Eddie touched a troll,

Laurie danced with witches once,

Charlie found some goblins gold.

Donald heard a mermaid sing,

Susy spied an elf,

But all the magic I have known

I’ve had to make myself.”

― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

Fish on the sidewalk, Governor Nichols Street New Orleans, Louisiana

And today’s flash fiction:

Horsemouth and Aquariumhead by Elizabeth Turner

from Lost Balloon

Elizabeth Turner Twitter

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Context! by Jose Hernandez Diaz

“I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.”

― Frida Kahlo

Nick on his skateboard.

From my Online Journal – May 12, 2002

I live is such a mind-numbingly boring place going for a walk is great practice at observation. I have to be very good at it to find anything remotely interesting to see.

Across from the school a clumsy fat kid stumbled down the sidewalk on a skateboard while cradling a tiny black-and-white kitten in his hand. The house he emerged from still had its Christmas lights hanging from the eaves – the popular complex strands of white, icicle lighting; the lights on the roof had come loose and were tangled up in a mess. Though all the houses in my neighborhood were once equipped with central air, this one had a small window unit in a living room window – it was making an unpleasant clanking racket – it won’t make it through the summer.

And today’s flash fiction:

Context! by Jose Hernandez Diaz

from Lost Balloon

Jose Hernandez Diaz Twitter

Jose Hernandez Diaz page

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Spines and Tiny Hearts, by Rupert Dastur

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

― Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

From my Online Journal – November 13, 2001



despite the spitting rain the traffic flies, I fly down the onramp and merge, merge with the flow, become one with the nighttime red twin corpuscles of tail lights, screaming on slotted concrete, screaming tires under gangsigned overpasses, I’m grinning to an oldies station – Good Luvin’ pumping out loud, glad to get home on time for once. But a sudden sea of brighter red brakelights and it all falls apart, slows to a crawl, slows more to a stop, I watch the concrete bridge piers creep by inch by inch only inches outside my window and fantasize leaving something there, I’d have the time, cute girl in a red sportscar – ponytail, giant smoking bus, hugely fat guy crammed in a white Honda with his seat leaning back and tattered Old Glory plastic pole hooked to his window, grocery truck with the word FISH on the back, one lane moves a little then another, slow slow, slower, line of cars give up, bail out, creep up the steep shoulder to the frontage, all the SUV’s pull this off, but where will they go? Finally around a bend the flashing red and blue lights, line of crimson flames and wax coated sticks of flares in the road, everyone crams together into one lane, comes a time when you have to simply not look and move, then a diorama of towtrucks pulling piles of twisted metal onto flat trailers, Ambulance with open doors, groups of people standing, someone covered with a blanket, it is human to look for a few seconds though I understand how that look gets multiplied for the thousands waiting, then free, open, time to accelerate, get home, get home, get home

And today’s flash fiction:

Spines and Tiny Hearts, by Rupert Dastur

from Reflex Fiction

Rupert DasturTwitter

Rupert Dastur homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, One Milky Window, by Tara Isabel Zambrano

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

― Marilyn Monroe

Mural on construction fence, Farmer’s Market, Dallas, Texas, Derrick S. Hamm

From my Online Journal – August 2, 2002, written on the beach during a trip to Nicaragua:

In the hammock, looking at a fallen coconut, I fall asleep and dream and wake up not knowing where I am.

Usually when I steal a few moments in a hammock, it is to dream I am tied between a coconut tree and maybe a mango tree, along a tropical beach, with the Pacific breakers crashing in a steady roar. It is disconcerting to wake up from my dream and realize I really am there.


The sea foams
orange
with plankton, algae
and diatoms

a shark thrashes
in the breakers
its prey caught
and bloody

the beach is littered
with
tiny slivers of shells
crushed by the surf
against the rocks
like broken heart-bones


At night on the beach, the brilliant unfamiliar Southern constellations, brief flashes of shooting stars, giant tropical thunderstorms on the ocean horizon throwing distant brilliant flashes of heat lightning – all up against the inky dark.

And today’s flash fiction:

One Milky Window, by Tara Isabel Zambrano

from The Forge

Tara Isabel Zambrano Twitter

Tara Isabel Zambrano homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, A Quick Dip, by Neeru Nagarajan

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

The river and the Hwy 90 double bridge from the Crescent Park Bridge, New Orleans

From my Online Journal – July 3, 2000 (almost twenty years ago – yikes! – my kids were nine and ten at the time) written during a camping trip at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas:

We came back down to Balmorhea in the late afternoon and decided to go swimming. We talked to Lee about his fear of the fish in the pool and, as I suspected, it was mostly that he was tired and hungry yesterday. Some rest and some food and he was ready to hit the water.

He didn’t really do any swimming. What he preferred to do was to put on his goggles and stretch across his inflatable inner tube and let me swim and pull the tube around the big pool. He’d take a deep breath and stick his head into the water and look at the bottom. The pool is very large and there was a lot to look at. He would have requests like, “Swim me over to that end,” or “let’s go out to the deep part,” and I’d oblige. He’d plunge his face and come up with a report of what he saw: a school of fish, or some rocks, or a turtle, or a place where some kids had inscribed their names into the algae growing on the bottom.

After the crowded holiday that day before, only a handful of swimmers and some scuba divers were there. As I pulled Lee around Nick dove off the high board and swam until it was his turn. Lee wrapped up in a towel and walked back to the campsite. Nicholas put on his goggles and I started swimming him around on his tube. We went into the deep end to try and spot the place where the copious flow of water erupted in a bed of white bubbling sand.

We came up against the stairs on the far side. I was getting tired and cold, the spring water is very chilly, it was late, I’d been swimming a long time and it was taking its toll. I asked Nick if we should walk back, around the pool or swim across. We did have his inner tube – I felt confident we could make it across one more time. We decided to swim. It was a mistake.

Nick looped his goggles around one shoulder and took hold of one side of the tube while I grabbed the other and we started to swim. Not too far from the side, but at the deepest part, maybe thirty feet deep, Nick called out, “Oh, oh, there go my goggles.” In retrospect I should have let them sink; but I took a big gulp of air and took off underwater, diving as deep and as quickly as I could. Maybe twenty feet down I saw a sinking orange blur, frog-kicked over to the goggles and grabbed them. Then I swam back up to the surface.

When you start reaching well into your forties, like I am, there is a fundamental change in the relationship between you and your body. What has been a good friend over the years, a partner, something you are… well, attached to – suddenly turns traitor. Abilities you have taken for granted for decades disappear. No one tells you about this. As a youth I could swim underwater with the ease and comfort of walking across a field. I took this for granted, the ability to hold my breath, come up for air and refresh myself. I discovered tired, and cold, and old, and fat… this is no longer true.

When I came up and handed Nicholas his goggles and put one hand on the inner tube and started kicking and swimming I realized that I was not going to be able to catch my breath. It came on with awful speed. No matter how hard I tried, my breathing became more and more labored, shallower, moving my arms and legs in the cold spring water was becoming extremely difficult.

It was horrifying.

With amazing clarity of thought, I knew I was not going to drown. I did have that inner tube for a float, even though I was rapidly becoming so weak I could barely hold on to it. There were some scuba divers in the pool that had finished diving and were sitting on the steps talking over the day’s sights and I knew I could call to them and they would haul me out of the pool. I came within a hair’s breadth of doing that.

The main fear I had was I thought I might be having a heart attack. I had never felt like this before. There was no pain, but I simply could not breathe, I could not get enough oxygen into my body to keep my arms and legs moving.

I don’t know what Nicholas thought, holding on to the other side of the inner tube, my son’s face only a few inches from mine. I must have scared him a little because I know I was flopping more than I should, trying to hook my arm into the tube and was unable to get it done. I didn’t want to frighten him unnecessarily so I kept my rising fears to myself.

Slowly, we continued to move across the wide pool, and finally I was able to reach down with a toe and touch the bottom. That didn’t help as much as you’d think because I was too weak to stand in the water and the energy used to hop and get my face above water made my breathing more impossible. Finally, the floor became shallower and shallower and before I knew it I was on the steps.

I released the tube and the brisk wind blew it away. “Could somebody get that please,” I asked, and a scuba diver caught it with a couple strong sure strokes and brought it back to me.

I didn’t have to sit beside the pool for very long before I felt fine. The fear and panic quickly drained away and left me with a slight elation even though I was still a little tired. I told Nicholas to take his towel and walk back to the popup at the campsite, I’d catch up in a minute.

Looking back on it now, I realize what I was feeling, in addition to simple exhaustion, was hypothermia. The spring water was cold and I had been in it for hours.

Walking slowly back to the camp, enjoying the last purple glow of the set sun, following the channels that the water followed as it coursed out of the pool, roaring down the irrigation ditches on out of the park, I felt fine. But the memory of those minutes of fear, the feeling of helplessness and drowning, are still with me. I had never felt like that before and I don’t look forward to feeling like that again. Unfortunately, I’m sure I will.

And today’s flash fiction:

A Quick Dip, by Neeru Nagarajan

from Middle House Review

Neeru Nagarajan Twitter

Neeru Nagarajan homepage

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Charity Auction by Bill Chance

sound of a cicada
Shape of the Spitfire’s wings
yellow firefly light
taste of daycare peanut butter
industrial grape jelly
sanding dust from balsa wood
beige and fine
light as air
pins in cardboard
white glue
a path through the nettled woods
ending at a rope swing
over a dry creek bed

—-Armando Vitalis, From Hell’s Heart I Stab At TheeShape of the Spitfire’s Wings

I donated five dollars to the North Texas Food Bank. You swipe your credit card, push the button. There’s an artificial splash and the cash projected on the fountain swirls around in a virtual splash

Charity Auction

The two kids, Sandy and Simon had a charity auction for the new Quest program at their school.

“We’re supposed to bring stuff from home in to auction off,” said Sandy.

“It’ll be really cool,” said Simon.

A week before the auction, their mother helped them pick out possessions they didn’t play with anymore, digging around in their closets for old toys. There were plenty to choose from. They each filled a small cardboard box and off to school they went, proud and excited.

The day of the auction their mother gave each one a ten-dollar bill to spend at the auction. Sandy immediately lost hers (it turned up a few days later in a never-used pocket in her backpack) so Simon gave five to his sister. He was not happy.

They were able to buy some stuff and were anxious to show off their purchases to their parents.

“I bought this Darkwing Duck movie!” said Sandy, “I remember seeing it years ago and liking it!”


“Sandy, that’s your movie, you donated it last week,” her mother said.


“I bought all these Batman Action figures!” boasted Simon.


“Simon, those are all yours, you donated those too!”


“I know, but I remembered how much I liked them and figured they were in there by mistake.”

The two kids had bought the same stuff they had donated to the auction.

Their parents explained they didn’t really understand how a charity auction worked. They suspected that a lot of the kids had bought their own donations.

But later, thinking about it, they decided that the kids understood more than it appeared, maybe they understood more than their parents or their teachers.