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Flash Fiction: The Silence Itself

The Silence Itself

The road to the brick hospital was lined with trees bleeding their color. My mother drove slowly since there was no other way to drive to this. Beside her, his illness talked, wheezing, mumbling. Sometimes it was his silence itself that sounded sick.

My brow was thicker now and I held it stiffly to look angry. She’d taken me from school, where girls wore denim in the dust and autumn heat and their walks made me certain about my own death.

I lit a cigarette in front of the buses already lined up and rattling with diesel, and when our car pulled up, she said nothing. She only needed me to sit still and not speak while the sun was hot through the window and my father died.

I breathed her smell and felt the trees shade us as the mountains closed the sky.

The same women who work in all hospitals walked heavily through the hallways, plain-faced nurses cleaning away indignity. Wires ran through most things, along the walls, through glass, the countertops, bundled in corners, and clocks inside wire cages uselessly pointed at numbers. I sat beside his bed, my hands splayed across my legs, my palms dampening my jeans.

My mother didn’t cry, but her eyes exhausted gravity of this all. Not just dead husbands and white dresses in boxes somewhere, but every image as it came, the tomatoes she stewed, our planked floors and low ceilings, the garage’s oily rags, and the gravel alleys the men walked down at five, coal-covered, coughing, their big hands against their darkened faces. They walked through the beginnings of the cold, quietly toward their houses, their heat blowing off into the bigness.

dylan nice

flash fiction in Artvoice

Literary Buffalo occasionally includes flash fiction alongside the poetry, features, interviews, and book reviews. Literary Buffalo seeks submissions of flash fiction, meaning complete stories running 500 words or less. Stories longer than 500 words will not be considered. Send submissions to flash fiction editor Greg Gerke at or mail them to Flash Fiction Editor, Artvoice, 810 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14202. Please include SASE for return of manuscript.

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