You excellent writers just about gave Shianan Fae a migraine this week. I’m so impressed with all of you.
But there can be only one winner. We’ve got our five finalists for this week. Congratulations!
Here are their entries. Poll’s on the right so VOTE!
Jill sat on the empty park swing, the seat beneath her a hard plastic board and her fingers wrapped around the cold metal chains. She swung lightly, her beaten sneakers dragging twin track marks in the sand below. She stared across the street, past the open field, at what had once been her best friend’s home. She stared with unblinking eyes—with eyes that stung from the chill of winter, the bite of wind, and the glaze of tears.
How could the doctors think a piece of paper and a few pills could solve her problems? Crystal wouldn’t be coming back, and no prescription would change that. There’d be no more tiny tea parties in her front yard, packed inside a Rainbow Bright lunch pail. No more giggles between tents made of chairs and blankets and lit only by flashlights they’d have to smack against the palms of their tiny hands to make work.
Jill shook from the sobs trapped inside her chest. The tears she couldn’t let fall, in fear she might never stop crying. Even at her age, she knew kids shouldn’t die. Kids who got sick had mommies to give them medicine and tuck them in bed with cartoons to watch and everything would be okay again, real soon.
They didn’t get tumors in their brain, and they didn’t die.
They weren’t there one day, somebody’s best friend in third grade, and then gone the following year.
As the weeks passed after Crystal’s death, Jill always found herself in the same place, sitting on the same swing, alone. She packed away her Little Ponies, her Polly Pockets, and her Cupcake Dolls. Packed them all away—even the Gumbi figurines and the Popples.
She didn’t watch Care Bears anymore, or Fraggle Rock, or Alf. She didn’t play with her Skip-It, and she never would again. She’d just sit on this swing, until Crystal came back. She had to come back.
As it was getting dark, Jill picked up the cardboard box of old toys, and carried them over to Crystal’s house. She knocked on the door and she waited until someone answered and she prayed it would be Crystals face that filled the doorway, only a few inches over her own, to invite her in to play.
Crystal’s mom opened the door and invited Jill inside. Jill set the box of toys on the kitchen table and sat down.
“Maybe you could—I thought Sarah might want these,” Jill said, nudging the box closer to Crystal’s mom.
Crystal’s mom reached out and placed her hand over Jill’s. Quickly, she pulled her hand back and covered her mouth. Tears wet her face. She sniffed and wiped the tears away with the inside wrist of her robe.
Jill swallowed around the tight, painful knot in her throat. “I didn’t say goodbye.”
Crystal’s mom got up from the table, opened the kitchen junk drawer, and returned to set down a small pad of paper and a pen. “Here. Tell her now. It’s never too late to say goodbye.”
Jill wrote a short note.
::Crystal—I will never forget you. Love always, Jill::
Crystal’s mom tied the letter to a helium balloon, and they let it go into the night sky.
That night, Jill flushed the rest of her prescription down the toilet. She didn’t send any more balloon notes after that and she never said goodbye, either. Instead, she found an old journal she’d never gotten around to writing in and began to write stories of their friendship. Over time, the journal filled, but Jill continued to write her stories, over and over again in her heart.
Love, she found, was undying, and far more powerful than any prescription.
He reached for the stethoscope and placed it in his ears. Thoughtfully, he held the other end in his hands, warming it, before placing it on her chest.
“Your heartbeat sounds good.” He paused, reaching for his bag of instruments. “Now I’ll look at your ears and mouth.”
He clicked the button on the scope and turned her head to see in each of her ears. “Say ‘ahh’.”
She opened her mouth wide, as he instructed.
“Nothing out of the ordinary there.”
“What brought you in to the office, today?”
“I woke up feeling sick.”
“Hmmm. Well, I think you should take this medicine. It will make you feel better.”
He looked at her, his large brown eyes certain.
“Okay.” She took the prescription from his hand and took a bite.
A beautiful smile lit his face, and she watched her four-year-old son run away, squealing in delight, as he ate her chocolate chip cookie.
He stared at the innocuous looking box, picking it up and turning it over and over in his hands, almost, but not quite, fondling it, before returning it to the usual spot. When his hands went back to it for the third time he gave in, breaking the seal and sliding the contents out to stare at him, mutely accusing.
‘It’s not like I’m hurting anyone,’ he decided as he finished unpacking and assembling his newest toy.
“It isn’t going to work,” his lover announced from the doorway. “You’re only fooling yourself.”
“I have a prescription.”
“A prescription for disaster,” came the muttered reply. “Look, if you’re going to do this I’m outta here.”
“What does fair have to do with it?”
“You’re the one who asked me to try.”
“And now I’ve changed my mind. I’d rather see you keep smoking. If I have to look at you sucking on that silly fake cigarette I may laugh myself to death.”
“Fine. If you’d rather I die of lung cancer.”
“No, but I can think of MUCH better things for you to put in your mouth if you need to suck on something.”
By the time I excuse myself to go to use the bathroom it’s already half past eleven and I realize, snaking through the small hallway that runs past her bedroom with the black and white prints of burned-out buildings lining the wall, that I’ve been putting almost five hours worth of effort into this girl, like actual effort, and I’m wondering where the night’s going to go. It was a good sign, I guess, that she invited me back to her place after dinner, that she suggested we open a bottle of wine, which we inhaled promptly and have since moved on to a stray six pack buried at the back of her fridge, and an even better sign she’s moved closer to me on the couch after almost every sip of alcohol, and has, seemingly, found my jokes funnier and funnier as the night’s worn on.
In the bathroom, I quickly go to the sink and splash water on my face, feeling tired from the wine. Plus, I’m not used to these marathon courting sessions, I guess. Not that I mind. Just…takes a lot out of you. I dry off with a beige towel hanging on the back of the door and can’t help it but begin studying the small room, the matching beige bathmats on the floor, a small shelving unit hung over the back of the toilet and filled with various lotions and moisturizers, things she knew I’d see and left out on purpose, I bet, to show she takes care of herself. I look in the mirror and fix my hair in a few places and, turning to leave, suddenly get this overwhelming sense to check her medicine cabinet, a faux pas of the most heinous sort, but before I can even stop myself from thinking such a thing I realize my hands, acting on their own, have already opened the small door, careful not to make any sound.
I begin rummaging around: toothpaste, floss, mouth wash, some aspirin. I realize everything seems normal, that she seems normal, and I’m about to leave and forget I ever looked, but see an orange prescription vial with the label facing the back, so I can’t see. I turn the bottle slowly and see it says “Clozapine,” a name I don’t know, and just under it, in small letters, “Antipsychotic medications are indicated for nearly all acute psychotic episodes in patients with schizophrenia.” I feel my stomach rise in me, I wonder if I can believe anything she’s been telling me all night, about her previous relationships and how they all ended abruptly, and, fearing for my life, perhaps foolishly, I hear a knock at the bathroom door.
“Are you in there?” she says opening the door slowly. “I have to show you something.”
“What NOW Karl?”
“Just got a call. Your prescription is ready.”
Abe looked around the poker table. None of the other players would meet his gaze.
“Yeah, ok. Thanks Karl.”
The plague started ten years ago. It took the billion dollar pharma companies five years to create a ‘maintenance drug.’
Which worked fine if you had money, connections or weren’t the two and a half billion people who’d died already.
Abe tossed in a few chips and said, “Call!”
The rest of the goons all folded, made their excuses and left in a hurry. Abe collected the chips from the table.
“Heh. Works every time,” Abe muttered, chuckling to himself.
Abe tossed a few of the chips to Karl and said, “Nice one. Same time next week?”
Karl grabbed the chips, nodded the scurried out of the basement.
Abe pocketed his winnings, grabbed his hat and left as well.
The streets of Chicago were practically deserted. Abe put his head down and hurried along fourth street. ‘Deserted’ didn’t mean dangerous.
He’d been running various scams since the plague had wiped out any sense of an economy. It kept him fed, for the most part. And He’d been told he was immune to the plague, so it made him no never mind.
He got to his apartment door, turned the key in the lock and entered.
That’s when he coughed.
He held his hand to his mouth and saw the blood.
“No!” He gasped “I’m immune…’
Abe Collapsed in a heap.