Tuesday, August 26, 2008

readers digest

flash fiction in 500 words. harder than it looks, even harder to make it any good. still not happy with it but i'm learning, i'm learning. enjoy.

'I'm sick. I sleep all the time these days and when I'm not working I lie down, I read comics, writing letters I won't send, eating food dry and raw because I forget to cook and thinking, thinking, thinking.

I've stopped reading the newspapers - there was a story the other week about a fortune telling fish. Apparently this miracle fish was predicting flash floods and minor earthquakes in the lowland provinces of Japan and the local people had become torn between worshipping it as a piscine deity and grilling it over hot coals. At first it depressed me that this fish had warranted more column inches then say, the rising crime rate or the economic downturn but then I figured, what the hell, let the fish have it's glory. It's just my mood these days. I think it'll pass.

I don't watch the tee-vee anymore either. The batteries for the remote control gave up four months ago and I haven't got round to replacing them. This suits me fine. I've heard its beginning to eat itself, television, digesting and regurgitating ideas into slickly produced pools. Soon there won't be any programming, just a long shot of the same image being replayed over and over again.

So I'll just keep on writing my letters. I have a pile of them now, all to my brother.

He's dead, my brother, he died saving another kid who was drowning in six feet of water. Six feet man, can you believe that? Some people are that tall and then some, it isn't much. The kid survived, it was my brother who went under. The papers called him a hero and the mayor gave my grieving parents a medal - a posthumous award, which made about as much sense to me as banana skin shoes. He didn't need it, we didn't need it, so it sat growing dust on the mantelpiece for years until my father put it in a drawer and we forgot about it.
My parents still get letters from the kid he saved - isn't there an old Chinese proverb which says 'if you save a life you are responsible for it forever'? The letters are growing more infrequent as the time passes and pretty soon they'll stop altogether, but right now he wants them to know that he's graduated in law from UCL, has started training as a barrister with a firm in London, how it's all down to Tom, all down to Tom, your brave son brave Tom.

They're the letters I do send. The letters to my brother are the ones I can't. The ones in which I tell him I'm sorry for wading out into that murky water, with it's lethal shelf which falls away beneath your slow moving feet. I want to tell him that some days my mouth still fills with the blind, mineral taste of the river and I feel like I might choke on it. I want to tell him but I can't. '

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