The words rolled over her then, crushed her flat as piecrust beneath a rolling pin. She watched him shaping the words with his mouth, this doctor whom she had grudgingly agreed to see after her husband had had what he thought was the last word in their long argument. Go.
Now there was another word. Cancer. And others, too. Treatment. Pain.
This man, this doctor in his chair. He pulled out words as though they were stones from his pocket, polished shiny and smooth with much use, set them carefully before her on the barren wood of his medical desk.
My Dear Claude–
The experiments continue despite my so-called “setback.” It was an accident, despite what you may have heard. You’re absolutely correct in your assessment of my current state of mind. I am indeed frustrated that my colleagues see me as a fraud and even a madman, all the more since my dismissal from the faculty. They will see the truth in time. Of that I am supremely confident.
As to your question about my arrest, I will only say that it was a matter of ill timing rather than any actual criminal intent on my part. Always remember, Claude, appearances can be deceiving. I also wish to point out that the young lady sustained no significant injury other than a good scare. Considering her rather flighty temperament, I doubt that it will cause any lasting mental trauma. I remind you, also, that she had given her full consent to the procedure.
As for the experiments themselves, I am overjoyed to report promising results. It is unfortunate that the negative publicity has ensured I will be unable to find any willing test subjects in the near future, but I will no doubt soon find a satisfactory solution.
I very much look forward to your upcoming visit. I will have many exciting things to share with you.
I remain, as ever, your true friend and advisor
Dr. M _____
Sunday Photo Fiction
All my life I seen things different.
I look at a place and I don’t see it like it looks now.
I seen everything ever happened in that place all at once, like the way you can drill into a tree and count the rings.
Some places, like roofs and treetops and the high sides of buildings, they barely got anything on ’em since no people been up there aside from window washers.
A place like the station, it’s so full of people that have passed through– why, it’s just a blur.
I can hear ’em sometimes, too.
“I won’t do it. I can’t. Please.”
He put his arm around her. “Really, Susan. It will be fine. This thing carries thousands of people across every day. There’s never been an accident. It’s safe as houses, as my Gran would say.”
“You don’t understand. It’s…it’s…”
She began to cry again.
“Look, darling. We’re nearly to the front of the queue. You won’t want to have wasted two hours of our weekend. Besides, we’ve reservations at the Docklands at one. You know how much you’ve been looking forward to that. They have creme brûlée.”
She scowled, her cheeks wet. “Don’t patronize me, Peter. Goddamn don’t patronize me.”
“I’m not trying to. I am only saying that we have a reason. We’d never make it in time otherwise. Look. The queue is moving again. We’re up soon.”
“Have you not listened to anything I’ve told you? I’m not fucking going.”
With that, she tore her arm from his and shoved her way through the crowd. He watched her head bob in the sea of people as she made her way back toward the Tube station, gold-red hair winking in the rare June sunlight.
He wondered if he ought to go after her. This was all so damned silly. It would have been a perfect day to see London from the cable car. Perhaps he would go anyway.
Sunday Photo Fiction
Have you ever sat in one place and watched it get dark?
By that I mean have you sat alone in one place without moving or speaking, staring at a boat or a building or a stadium across the water while the shadows deepen and swell up into the sky until everything turns blue-black?
A chill breeze across the river sets me shivering.
I wonder where my girls are now, whether they are still at the airport or on their way to their new house, a home I will never be part of, our lives now unshared.
You’d never know we grew up in that place. It took us a half hour just to find where the house had stood. Everything was changed, from the road name–we grew up on Route 217, now known as Adelaide Lane–to the placement of the creek, to the very trees themselves.
It was Jay who figured it out, pointing at the short brick staircase that once had led to the back porch, now nearly hidden by nettles.
“This was the kitchen,” he said, gesturing at the towering clumps of chokeweed and bracken. “And that was the living room.”
I walked to the corner that had been her bedroom. Along the edge was a thick hedge of gorse and thistle, the tendrils twisted into an impenetrable tangle. But beneath the knots of spine-covered vine and jagged leaves I could make out a rectangle of rusted iron and splintered wood.
“Jay,” I said, trying to keep my voice calm. “I think I may have found it.”
Sunday Photo Fiction
“I wish they could come in, Mommy. Can you please open it? Just this once?”
He used his most persuasive tones, dulcet and utterly innocent. For the hundredth time she told him why the window must stay locked, pointed out what had happened last time.
“But I was so young then, Mommy. A child. I’m all grown up now.”
She noticed for the first time that his face had lost much of the baby fat. Perhaps he had a point. But no, despite his protestations he was still a child. She shook her head and left before the tantrums began.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we got us a real surprise today.”
The announcer’s voice rolled across the stands, tinny speakers creating an echo at once grand and ridiculous. Ethel knew what was coming and made a face, darted a glare at Fonty III.
“I swear, Aunt E,” said the boy. “I got nothing to do with this.”
“One of our pioneers come by to see how we do it these days,” said the announcer. “But we can’t teach her nothin’ about stock car racing.”
Ethel turned the glare on Carrie, who sat the other side with her hands in her lap. Carrie shrugged.
“Come on, Aunt Ethel. You know you love it.”
“Let’s us give a real dirt track welcome,” said the announcer, “to a member of the first family of NASCAR and a great racer in her own right– ETHEL FLOCK MOBLEY.”
All eyes were on her. She raised her hand in what Timmy always called the “queen wave” while the announcer quickly ran through a list of all the races she had won back in the days when two thousand dollars was big money and your pit crew was your mechanic and any friends you could talk into giving up a Sunday.
Sunday Photo Fiction
This piece is a plug of sorts for a graphic novel I’ve written about the real-life Flock family. Ethel Flock Mobley and her brothers Tim, Fonty and Bob dominated the early days of the exciting new sport.
May closed the cash drawer.
It would not close.
“I thought Henry fixed this,” she called to the back of the shop.
“He did,” answered Joy. “Which means it’s broke in a new way. I call it Henry fixed.”
She came behind the counter, bumped May out of the way with a friendly hip. “You got to lift it up a little, like so.”
The drawer slid neatly in and closed with a little ringing sound that made May smile.
“It didn’t do that before.”
From the back of the shop a child wailed.
May looked up sharply.
The old man scratched his privates as he made his way across beshitted carpet to his trash-strewn kitchen, the charnel reek of feral urine and rotting meat, the dozens of nameless cats crying and howling and winding about his legs. He picked among the heap of cans piled atop the grease-crusted counter seeking those yet unopened.
He was amazed by the knocking at the front door. The old man had had no visitor since his son had left five years hence, roared his truck out of the long driveway with such speed that his curses hung in the air with the dust kicked aloft by the bald tires. He parted the curtain and peered through the window, tilting his face to better see through the film of grime and bird droppings. A cat jumped on the counter, purring as it ran its back beneath the old man’s bony arm.
She stood on the porch, well dressed and clean. A pretty woman, which is why he came to the door and why he stopped to tuck his stained undershirt into the frayed waistband of his filthy pajamas, why he ran fingers through his touse of thick white hair. As he turned the deadbolt he remembered he had not put his teeth in, but it was too late for that.
The cats continued their shrill complaining as he swung open the door on the young, serious face.
Sunday Photo Fiction