Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction Story-- Night Shift Eternal

She's been dead 13 years now and I still think I hear her open the door exactly at 7 am. 7 am, I would have been just waking up, and she'd come in, exhausted, and flop down on the bed beside me.

"Honey," she'd say, "I swear working night shift just kills me."

And, half-asleep, I'd mumble something along the lines of "Switch shifts already."

And she'd laugh. "I like night shift. I work the forgotten hours, the hours that don't exist. They're magical and starry and each night, when the world's asleep, I discover them."

She worked indoors, but I could just picture her staring up at the ceiling as if she could see the stars anyway, you know? She never cared if people thought she was strange.

Sometimes I wish she had a grave just so I could go scream at her.

I imagine myself smashing her grave, until the stone breaks into so many tiny crumbs, the sweet message I'd have put on there would be impossible to read, and people deep in their own thoughts and mourning would kick them down the street in passing.

And then I'd yell, "Not so damn magical now, is it?!"

Oh. It sounds terrible when I say that aloud. I've never told anyone that before. It's strange telling a stranger, but I guess that makes sense, eh?

Please don't get the wrong idea. I loved her and anyway she was cremated, so you don't have to worry about me doing anything drastic.

All I can do is wake up the same time I've woken up all these years, and listen for the jingle of her keys and her heavy, tired steps up the stairs. Every morning, I listen so hard I almost feel my eardrums shatter with the hope of it.

Oh, trust me, I've tried not to. I've tried to sleep in. I've tried the radio and the TV. I've tried reading and eating and drinking too much rum. Nothing works.

I should be over it, right? 13 years is a long time. Our kids grew up: Sheila's 20, Don's 25. I changed the voicemail. I cancelled her magazine subscriptions. I donated her clothes and her books.

But I can't make it stop.

What do you think? When I hear the jingle and those damned steps every morning, do you think I'm crazy or do you think it's really her?

Yes, of course, it matters. If it's me, I'd want you to give me drugs that begin with every letter of the alphabet. If it's her, it wouldn't really help, now would it? If she's stuck in some kind of hereafter, me taking all the drugs in the world wouldn't change that. 13 years is a long time to be trapped. Trust me, I'd know.

I have to forgive her? For what? It's not like she could have helped that she was working that night. It's not like she could have known that man would bring a gun to work. Not like she could have stopped him. That one lady--the one who hid under a desk--said Myra tried talking to him. She said that after he killed that first guy, Myra pleaded with him to put the gun down. She'd worked with him for 5 years. And the bastard shot her. You believe that? But she didn't do anything wrong. There's nothing to forgive.

Coming here was a mistake. I don't know what I expected you to do, 13 years after the fact. You don't have the answers. You don't even have the drugs. All you have is a prescription. Words on a piece of paper that I wouldn't even be able to read.

I tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to go home and forget about all this. I'm going to pretend I never heard your pretentious gibberish. And tomorrow, I'm going to listen real hard for her coming up those stairs. I figure, either I'll hear her finally reach the bedroom, or I'll go deaf trying.

So that's it, then. I'm gone.

No hard feelings, eh? Can't save us all. Best of luck with your next hopeless case.

1 comment:

  1. Nat, this was so beautiful to read!

    You paint such a vivid reality fom just one characters bittesweet and so authentic, you made it so real in my head. I kept reading the " 13 years is a long time. Our kids grew up..." paragraph again and again.
    Def edit it and send it off to publish soemwhere. You must! This is honestly archvied in my mind as one of my fav short stories. Thank you for that :)