Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “The Main Character is Physically Impaired”

The LinkedIn Comment Thread can be found here.

This post is for STORIES related to the Contest theme: “Main Character Theme”.

The main character has to be physically impaired in some way; blind, deaf, mute, amputee, etc.

Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

The point of these friendly contests is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.


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  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be under 1000 words.

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***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Travis Keys per the Writing Prompt Roster.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

12 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “The Main Character is Physically Impaired”

  • Ken Allen
    To Whom It May Concern

    My mother used to tell me I was her special little boy, that God made me this way for a reason. I’ve spent my whole life alone, an existence in a bubble, and now I’m not so sure that any God exists. My mum used to tell me the story of when I was born. The doctor came into the room and stared at his shoes as he delivered the news, that my eyes were plagued.

    “Retinopathy,” The doctor said. “I’m sorry, but there is nothing we can do.”

    And although she never admitted to me, I am sure my mother cried.

    I guess I should give my parents some credit, it would have been very easy to leave me at the hospital, or leave me at an orphanage, or worse. Sometimes I wish they had, dead before I was alive.

    They spent the next decade of my life protecting me from the world. It must have been hard on them I have no doubt, to have someone like me stuck to them by an invisible umbilical cord.

    The constant, “Include your brother,” to my siblings was a common cry. Their inclusion lasted all of five minutes before they retreated to their own lives, playing games that were impossible for me, the freak once again left out in the cold.

    But nothing compared to the pain and humiliation I felt at school. The teachers had no idea how to teach someone like me, someone who had my challenges. They didn’t have the necessary resources to support me; they just weren’t prepared for it. Worse than that, being so different planted a huge target on my back. The pushing and shoving were a daily ritual. They would speak to each other and then laugh, their mouths in wide arcs with their pointed fingers my only indication. Each ridicule pushed me deeper into oblivion.

    So, I withdrew, I stopped trying. Stopped trying to interact with the world that wasn’t made for me, stopped trying to live. My mother cried while my dad left, both handling me and my curse in their own ways.

    When I was thirteen, I attended a camp for similar “differently abled” children; as if our collective deformities could somehow change our outlook. But I didn’t want to spend the weekend with a bunch of freaks, I just wanted to be like everyone else.

    On the first night, I held a knife within a millimetre of my face, dedicated to removing my eyes, and my blight once and for all. I was sure this action would mean I would evolve my telepathy skills and I could finally hear my mums voice for the first time. Surely, this was the only way.

    That’s when I met Nicole. She hit the knife out of my hands and screamed, the soothing sounds of a real voice enveloping me.

    “What are you doing?” She yelled, “You could have died!”

    Her eyes were a sensational blue, the kind of blue that made my heart dance and my soul speak in sonnets, and so different to the milky grey of everyone else I had ever known.

    We spent the next day creating our world, investigating the colours of nature, having conversations that spanned beyond words. We were away from the telepathic drone of the masses, away from the monotone, computerised speech of the translator machines.

    That night we held hands in front of the fire, the warmth from the flame paling in significance to the fire erupting within me. We moved closer, our eyes staring into each other’s soul. Every moment seemed like a lifetime, a thousand memories flashed before us. Then we kissed, my first kiss. Her lips were so soft and gentle, that it sparked my solace, and for the first time in my life I felt like I belonged to someone.

    That was the last time I saw her. Apparently, her parents felt that she could do better, regardless of her the shortcomings in the hand that God dealt her. Maybe they were right, I mean, two sighted people having a relationship was about as clichéd as you can get, although I never believed that in my heart. I soon learned Nicole’s parents sent her away to an institution, somewhere in the mountains where she could receive the proper attention and treatment she needed to survive in this world.

    So, I returned home, alone, back to my isolation. When I tracked Nicole down and I recorded letter after letter, sending them off and waiting for a reply. None came, and each passing day was a dagger to my heart.

    Later I found out Nicole had died from a medical procedure, her parent’s innate desire to make her normal had pushed medical capabilities beyond their limits. And just like that, she was gone, her meaningless existence swept under a rug. I learnt the news from a one sentence recording from her mother. In an instant, all the beauty washed away from the world, all the colour dissolved into greys and blacks, the darkness swallowed the light.

    I have resided to my fate. I accept I can see, and I accept this is what I am to do to finally be free. So, I sit here, writing this letter for a blind world that will never be able to read it. To be treated the way I have been treated, why should I give anyone the satisfaction of understanding my motives.

    I love you, Mum and Dad.

    Most of all, I love you, Nicole. I hope to see you again someday.

    Drew scrawled his signature, gently sat the pencil on the paper and sighed. If he hadn’t already run out of tears he would have cried, but now emotion sat lifeless in the pit of his stomach. He stood on his wooden stool and silently eased the makeshift noose over his head.

    The stool toppled.

    The bedsheet tightened.

    And Nicole held his hand.


  • Jan Guillory
    He didn’t see what happened. One moment he walked down the path, through the tall grass like he had done all his life. The next moment he flew through the air like a bird.

    She found him much later. He heard her call his name, over and over, but he couldn’t make a sound. The pain was terrible and the machine that ran across the pastures raced by him again.

    The long, fast ride didn’t help. She was upset and held let the machine go. When she found him, she screamed like he screamed at bumps in the road.

    Her hand was on him the whole time. She talked to him, comforted him, with water running out of her eyes.

    She carried him through a door moments after the car stopped. Even wrapped in a blanket, he knew where he was. The scents were unmistakable. He began to shake and she held him tighter.

    Then? The nightmare began and it lasted what seemed to him to be forever. At night, the lights were low and the cage was cooler. There were moans and howls all night, each night.

    No one came at night, and he wondered why. There wasn’t much they could do about it, anyway. All he could do was lie still, because his back hurt and he was restrained.

    She came by to visit every day, brought his blanket from home. He knew that she was sad because of him, he saw it in her eyes. How could he make it up to her, to make her happy again? He’d have to learn.

    One day he sat, and the people in the room laughed and ruffled his hair. They attached him to a string and he began to walk in a path of running water until one day he tried, and could not.

    People are easy to read, and those around him were unhappy the last day he spent with them, the day she came for him. The pain was better. The car ride wasn’t as bad.

    He’d figure out a way to make her really happy again.

    “Okay,” she said, “be still for me.”

    He sat on the grass at home, and she affixed wheels to his hips. The people of the cages did that, too, and taught him a few things.

    She backed away, and he showed her what he could do. He ran with wheels spinning toward the trees out back, turned and ran back toward her.

    She sat on the ground and waited for him, clapped her hands and called his name, happy again; and, so was he.

  • Jan Guillory
    There needs to be an EDIT BUTTON !!! dang it . .
  • Rehab
    It’s the flash I remember, after that, nothing until I wake up in the field hospital. Clawing my way through cotton wool layers of consciousness I see the medic adjusting something above my head. These drips and monitors all appear to be attached to me.

    “You’ve caught one, mate.”
    The medic tells me. My gut clenches, Christ! What’s happened to me? Involuntarily I reach down; I can feel nothing below my waist. One thought is uppermost in my mind, have I still got my wedding tackle? A wave of relief sweeps over me as I check my inventory. All there.

    The days and weeks march on, bringing with them periods of resolution and despair. My lowest ebb is when the surgeon arrives at my bed. He tells me, with what he believes to be compassion, that there is no way they can save my leg. They send the Padre and counsellors but they all spout the same guff. It’s not their leg that’s getting cut off and trashed, is it? What do they know?

    Weeks of rehab follow. The army physiotherapist is a sadistic sod.
    “Come on, for fucks sake, you can manage one more step.”

    He says, walking backwards to increase the distance between us. I lose count of the number of times I fall. Gradually I learn to balance but it’s a hard slog. Moments of black despair overwhelm me. I’m a cripple at twentyfour, my army career up the spout. Day in, day out, the same grinding regime, walk and fall, walk and fall. No praise for the time when I take that extra step. A seething anger builds up in me at the injustice of it all.
    I’m probably hell to live with. My fiancée, Sue, takes the brunt of it. At my very lowest point I tell her the engagement is off. She can’t be harnessed to a cripple for the rest of her life. As I watch her walk down the ward, her head high but tears in her eyes, I wonder if there is any point in going on.

    Over the next months I am to be fitted with a prosthetic leg and transferred to a rehab centre. They say I will be there for six months. I feel no great elation, it will be good to get away from the sergeant physio but I have no future anyway, so what does it matter where I go?

    The recovery unit seems to be a contrast from the regimented atmosphere of the hospital. Things here are more casual, there are fewer deadlines and I am introduced to four other blokes with similar injuries. The black depression lifts a little and I even manage a laugh occasionally. The physio assigned to me has a totally different attitude to the previous one. Within a month I receive my new prosthetic leg, and my daily physio sessions become more intense. Up to five hours a day is spent either in the heated swimming pool or learning to walk again. Carl, the physio, is there constantly. He senses when I’m finding it hard.
    “Go for it, lad. That’s great.” He encourages.

    Imperceptibly, under his guidance, I become more proficient. There develops a kind of competitive rivalry with the other lads, we spur each other on to greater achievements. Finally the day comes when I am discharged. I have mixed feelings about how I will cope outside the security of the unit. Carl and the lads gather on the steps to watch. They applaud as I walk across the carpark to my father’s waiting car. Just for today I feel like a winner.

  • Alice Nelson

    In Memory Yet Forgotten

    Kevin puttered about in the kitchen in his motorized wheelchair, putting together a meal from his admittedly limited repertoire. A little butter in the skillet, a little garlic, some flour, salt, and pepper for his roux and the sausage gravy was begun. He was too tired to bake so he got a can of biscuits from the refrigerator and set them next to the baking sheet. He was washing his hands before opening them when he heard a light knock at his front door. Shaking the excess water from his hands, he went to answer it. When he got there no one was outside. Instead, moving in the slight breeze outside was a yellow sticky note on one of the panes of glass in the door. He read the two words on it and his body suddenly shuddered.

    “Be Brave”

    The lights went out and the room was suddenly filled with an eerie, unnatural blue light. A sense of familiarity washed over him and his only thoughts before losing consciousness were unnamable dread.

    Kevin awoke to what were unearthly but familiar surroundings. He’d been here before many times but never remembered until he was here again. His clothing was gone and in its place he wore a simple white smock. The fabric was soft and light but it felt alien, just like everything else in this place. He was sitting up in some kind of firm but flexible support chair.

    A sound behind him caused Kevin to turn his head. A strangely familiar blue humanoid approached him.

    “Hello, Kevin.”

    Memories flooded his mind at the sound of her otherworldly voice.

    “Hello, Narina.”

    Her name wasn’t Narina but it was as close as he could come to the liquid flow of syllables no human vocal cords were meant to reproduce. An instant later he noticed the small, blanket wrapped bundle she carried in her long, slender arms.

    “Is that……?”

    “Yes, Kevin. This is your daughter, our daughter.”

    Without needing to ask the deep blue being approached him and held out the bundle. With the exquisite care of an appraiser lifting the most fragile piece of art he took it. Cradling the tiny infant inside, he carefully drew back the silvery cloth that covered her face.

    The sight took his breath away, the tiny blue face and the deeper blue eyes that caught his seemed at once ancient and innocent and he felt the pounding in his heart would disturb her but she made no sound, just looked serenely at him.

    “She is the last.”

    Kevin’s gaze jerked up at her words.


    “Yes, our geneticists say we have sufficient progeny from your race.”

    He remembered.

    “Your genetic structure contains a permutation that, while currently unexpressed, will make both our people and yours able to survive a situation that will occur in the future,” one of the alien doctors had said. “Ours will happen very soon, yours not for many decades. We hope you understand and forgive us for what must happen.”

    They’d been merciful in their own way, erasing his memories of these times and of the children that Narina had borne from him.

    “Then I won’t see you…or them…again.”

    “No. We do not normally interfere in the lives of others as we have you but we were desperate. You and others like you were our only hope and you have saved us.”

    “Please….let me stay.”

    “You know that we cannot. You are as important to your own people as you are to us. I’m terribly sorry.”

    She reached out to take him in her slender arms, holding their child between them.

    “This visit was to allow you to say good-bye.”

    Kevin nodded, tears falling freely. The door dilated again and seven other blue children entered. He fancied he could see signs of him in each. They gathered around him and their mother and sister, each finding a place to lay their small, soft hands upon his skin. Somehow he was aware of each individual child and he knew they loved him.

    Kevin blinked. The roux he was mechanically stirring had taken on the color he wanted. He added the half-and-half to the skillet, the sizzle as it boiled for a second bringing him fully back to the present. He finished cooking, ate, and cleaned up. As he turned his chair to leave the small kitchen his eyes lit on the vase that stood on the table in his living room. He smiled as he saw the bouquet of silk Forget-Me-Nots, then realized there were now eight of the small, blue blossoms where there once were only seven. For just a second his heart was filled with both profound love and abject sadness, and suddenly it was gone.

    Narina watched the image on the screen for a moment longer, certain that while Kevin would never remember, he would never be forgotten.

  • Phil Town

    Benny was a child of the Thalidomide scandal, but the one arm he grew up with proved enough in his early years. He could do just about everything he needed to do except play a musical instrument, and his parents were very supportive of him psychologically.

    Of course, children can be cruel, and many a time he would come home from school in tears after another day of taunting. But if anything, the name-calling strengthened him; by his mid-teens he was a confident young man, generally popular with his school-mates because of his sunny disposition and dry sense of humour. And he was happy.

    But then his family moved – his father was a salesman and was transferred to another town. Benny left behind the good friends who had come to look past his disability, and the prospect of starting from scratch frightened him. His first day at the new school took him back to when he was beginning primary and then secondary school.

    “Ha! A one-armed bandit!”

    “ ‘e’s ‘armless. Leave ‘im alone.”

    “Why? There’s no ‘arm in it.”

    Benny had heard all the unkind jokes before and should have let them ride, but perhaps because of the unfamiliarity of the surroundings, the solid ground that he’d built his character on was shaken. In his first class, he was asked to stand at the front, and while the teacher introduced him, Benny could see a number of his class-mates sniggering. One boy in particular, sitting at the back – well-built, good-looking – seemed to be encouraging others to join in.

    When the introductions were over, the teacher told Benny to find a seat. There were several, but the people sitting next to them hurriedly put bags and books on them. Then Benny saw a pretty girl beckoning him over to sit next to her, and he gratefully accepted the invitation.

    “Hi, I’m Alice. Pleased to meet you.”

    She put out a hand to shake Benny’s, but it was the wrong one – Benny had to twist his left hand round to take her right. She got flustered and giggled; it was sweet, innocent laughter, though, and Benny joined in. As he settled into his seat, warmed by this small act of kindness, he heard a snippet of conversation from the students in the desks behind him.

    “… yeah, he’s going to be really pissed off.”

    “What do you think he’ll do?”

    “I don’t know, but I wouldn’t like to be in the new-kid’s shoes.”

    Later, during break, Alice took Benny on a short tour of the school. She proved to be just as sweet as his first impression of her, and he began to feel like he belonged – despite the stares that followed them round.

    Back in class, Benny took his place next to Alice and tried out smiles on some of the kids around him – without much success. Alice turned to him.

    “What are you doing for lunch?”

    “Well, I’ve brought sandwiches.” He pointed to his bag.

    “Great! Me too. We can go to the playing field – it’s a lovely day.”

    The boy from the back row was passing down the corridor between the desks and stopped.

    “Hey, Alice. Wanna get lunch?”

    “Not today, Dean. I’m going with Benny.”

    “You’re … with that …!?”

    “That what, Dean?”


    Dean stormed to the back of the classroom and flopped into his seat, glowering at Benny and Alice. He seemed to make up his mind about something and leaned over to whisper to the boy sitting next to him, Chris.

    At lunch, Benny and Alice were making their way down the corridor when Chris stopped them.

    “Benny, I thought I’d say … I’d just like to welcome you to the school.”

    Alice gave Chris a strange look – this wasn’t like him at all. Neither she nor Benny saw Dean exit the toilets, come up behind them and slip something into Benny’s bag, slung over his shoulder.

    “Thanks very much … er …”

    “Chris. It’s Chris. So …”

    He glanced beyond Benny, where Dean was giving him the thumbs-up.

    “… see you around.”

    He hurried away down the corridor. Benny looked quizzically at Alice, who shrugged, and they continued on their way to the playing field.

    “I’ve got tuna. What’ve you got?”

    Alice was lying on the grass, leaning on her elbow and unwrapping her sandwiches. Benny sat in front of her, smiling inwardly and outwardly; it was turning into a good first day.

    “I don’t know. Let’s take a look.”

    He opened his bag and recoiled at the foul smell that came from it.

    “What the …!”

    He took out the transparent plastic bag that Dean had put there and gagged at what was inside it, with Alice following suit. Benny threw the bag away in disgust and as he did so, he noticed Dean and Chris standing a short distance from them, looking on and laughing hysterically. Benny put two and two together.

    In that moment, all of the calm and patient resistance to ridicule that Benny had built up over the years evaporated, replaced by a red fury that burst into flame inside his head. It was still raging in the first class after lunch – woodwork – and didn’t subside until well after the ambulance had rushed Dean to hospital.

    The police had their first interview with Benny there in the workshop, with the bloody electric saw still on the floor. They asked him why he’d done it. He grinned, an entirely different Benny now.

    “Oh, you know – just to even things up.”


  • Trajectory.
    © Nov. 2016 By Ken Cartisano

    After doing the last of the dishes, Robert Castro lowered himself back into his wheelchair and rolled to the middle of his apartment. He rotated the chair and scanned the room as he turned. His face revealed no emotion as he surveyed the cramped living area. The carpet was worn and dirty, frayed at the edge near the front door. The kitchen cabinets, though clean, had a dozen layers of paint clinging to their surface.

    Robert would readily admit that he was ambitious.

    The couch’s torn fabric was hidden underneath a patterned bedspread. An assortment of books and DVD’s were now neatly stacked on a bookshelf in the corner. He had collected a slew of magazines and miscellaneous papers from a variety of tables and stuffed them into a cupboard in the foyer that contained his linens, towels and detergent.

    Robert reflected on the circumstances of his life. He had returned from his tour of duty healthy and intact, then trained to become a fire fighter. Responding to a blaze in an abandoned factory, a steel support column had collapsed across his legs, severing them. If it had fallen a few seconds earlier, he would be dead, a few seconds later and it never would have hit him. The recovery, the physical therapy, the counseling that followed his accident was something like a return trip from hell.

    The doorbell rang.

    Dressed in a black suit and tie, the man introduced himself as James Waters. He wore a wedding ring, cologne and an expensive gold watch, but nothing else to hint at his financial status.

    “Do you mind if I sit down?” Waters asked.

    Robert shrugged and motioned toward the couch. It seemed to Robert that people who could stand were always looking to sit down, while he, legless, could not rid himself of the urge to stand up.

    Coming right to the point, Mr. Waters said. “Have you looked over the literature I sent you?”

    “Yes sir, I have.” Robert said.

    “Well—what do you think? Are you interested?”

    “It’s an awful lot to digest,” Robert answered, “especially on such short notice.”

    Mr. Waters smiled. It was a friendly, empathetic smile. “I understand Mr. Castro, but—as I mentioned on the phone, time is of the essence.”

    “I know,” Robert said. “It’s just, you know, such a big decision to make.”

    Mr. Waters looked around the tiny apartment. The walls needed paint; the windows were dirty. Traffic from a nearby intersection was disturbingly loud.

    Robert could read his visitor’s expression. ‘Who in their right mind would squander a chance to get away from this?’

    But Mr. Waters smiled. “You’ll never have to cook your own food again.”

    “I don’t mind cooking,” Robert replied. “I enjoy it.” I just don’t enjoy eating it, is what he thought, but didn’t say.

    “Well, your apartment would be furnished with a new kitchen, so you’ll have that option, but,” he examined his hands, pointedly refusing to look at anything in the room, “the accommodations are quite comfortable, clean, new. We treat our people very well.”

    “Do YOU live there?” Robert asked.

    “No.” Waters said. “But with the commute I have to make every day, sometimes I wish I did.”

    After a lengthy silence, Mr. Waters said, “Let me remind you that there’s a clause that allows you to opt out any time in the first six months. It’s on page three. If you change your mind for any reason at all, you can quit. Simple as that.”

    “But after that…” Robert said.

    Mr. Waters agreed. “That’s right, after that, you’re committed, there’s no turning…”

    “But what if I simply can’t do it?”

    “You weren’t picked at random, Robert. You have what it takes. I’d stake my reputation on it.”

    Robert looked doubtful, but conceded that Mr. Waters was a good salesman.

    “Would you like more time to think about it? I don’t want to seem pushy. There’s a timetable, a schedule of course, but—I’ll understand if you want to mull it over a bit more. It is, without a doubt, a rather big commitment.”

    “Here.” Robert pushed the contract toward Waters. “I’ve already made up my mind.”

    Mr. Waters picked up the contract and examined the signature. “Very good, Mr. Castro. There’ll be a battery of tests in the next couple of days, if all goes well, a team will assist you with your move to the facility. All right?”

    Robert nodded. “Sure, that’ll be fine.”


    Robert was unpacking his belongings and settling into his new room at the facility when an attractive woman knocked on the jam of his open door and rolled into his apartment on a high-tech wheelchair. She introduced herself as Dr. Jenkins. “And you must be Mr. Castro.”

    “Yes ma’am.”

    “I trust you’re satisfied with your accommodations.”

    “Yes ma’am.” His new quarters were specifically designed for a legless amputee: low counters; drop-down appliances; handrails, it was as good or better than promised.

    She cleared her throat, “Ironic isn’t it?”

    “What’s that?”

    “One minute you’re trying to figure out how to get your groceries up the stairs, the next minute,” she waved her arms vaguely, “you’re training for a mission to Mars.”

    “Yeah, although I’m not sure it’s completely sunk in yet.”

    “Well you’re going to have to adapt quickly Mr. Castro. I’ll be your commander on this flight. You can’t imagine how strongly I had to push for the bigwigs to use amputees as astronauts on this expedition. But once the engineers realized the crew’s weight would jeopardize the mission, they really had no choice.”

    “I see,” Robert said.

    “Do you? At one time I would’ve given my right arm to be on this mission. Now I’m on it.”

    “Your right arm, ma’am? I think you’re pulling my leg.”

    “Well, it would have made it difficult to salute my superiors,” she said with a wink. “Training begins promptly at 0800 hours. See you in the morning, Mr. Castro.”

  • Alice Nelson

    The Fat Lady Sings
    By Alice Nelson ©2016

    “I’m closer to death than life, and I’m not afraid.” Thirty-two year old Flora Gould was not just putting on a brave face, she meant every word of it.

    Gale Robinson listened, then scribbled something on the notepad in her lap.

    Flora, who had been obese most of her life, was now confined to her bed. The hospice care nurse came in to check the IV. Flora needed round the clock care since her organs were beginning to shut down —but frankly, she was tired of fighting to stay alive.

    “I can tell you’re judging me harshly.” Flora said. “You see this 500 pound behemoth before you, and probably think I’m just a greedy lazy pig who ate my way into an early grave. But it’s not that simple. You don’t just accidentally get to be this big, there’s a cause behind it, you know. I’m not excusing what I’ve done to myself —oh no, I’m just saying laziness and greed had little to do with it.”

    “Flora I’m not judging you at all. I’m just here to listen and assess your situation.”

    Flora continued. “What do you want me to say? I just want to die, okay. I’m ready to go and I don’t want to justify my decision to you or anyone else.”

    Just then Flora’s mother Hattie stuck her head into the room, “I thought I heard yelling, are you alright honey?”

    “Mom, I’m fine.”

    Hattie glanced at Gale sitting in the chair, and pleaded, “You can’t let her do this, it’s just not right.”

    “Mom it’s not up to her, this is my decision.”

    “But Flora—“

    “I’m sorry Mrs. Peterson, I’m just here to take her interview.”

    Hattie glared at Gale, then left.

    Flora rolled her eyes and said, “She’s good isn’t she?”

    “What do you mean?” Gale asked.

    “At pretending to be a loving mother.”

    “Isn’t she?”

    Flora laughed, “Not even close. She blows back into town without warning and tells me, “Mama’s here to take care of you hon,” when she’s never been there for me my entire life.”

    “Tell me about your relationship with your mother.”

    Flora groaned, “Why? I thought you were just evaluating me, not providing therapy.

    “Humor me Flora.” Grace smiled, Flora wanted to punch her.

    “I am the only child of Hattie Gould Anderson Mayberry Dawson Rayburn Doyle Peterson.” Flora said with a smirk. “These are all the last names of my mother’s 7 husbands. For now she is still Mrs. Peterson, but give her time, she should have a new last name soon enough. She was living in Arizona with Number 7, until she decided it just wasn’t working. Now she’s here, “taking care of me.”” Flora said using air quotes.

    Grace smiled, Flora had to admit it was a nice smile.

    “I never knew my father, he was either number one or two, even she isn’t sure, since she cheated on the first, with the second. What she is sure of however, is that I was 11 pounds at birth, and “ruined her” for any other children. This she never lets me forget. The woman is eternally selfish and constantly negative.”

    “Then why do you continue to let her be a part of your life?”

    For a moment Flora said nothing, the questioned seemed to surprise her. Then she said, “I don’t want to die alone. It’s as simple as that.”

    “Then maybe you can try to repair things with her before the end.”

    Flora gave Gale a look that made the woman feel a bit uneasy. “Do you think this is just some simple mother/daughter conflict that I need to get over?”

    “Then tell me what is Flora that’s keeping you from resolving things with your mother.”

    “I’ll tell you what’s stopping our utopian resolution, Gale. One of mom’s former husbands, molested me, and when I finally told her what he’d done, you know what she said?”

    Gale shook her head.

    “She laughed and said, ‘He would never have been attracted to you.’ Can you believe that? She didn’t say, ‘Honey I’m so sorry,’ no in her small mind, no man could be attracted to a homely, overweight teen like me. Needless to say, I began soothing my pain with food. A typical victim of abuse response, right Gale?

    Gale remained silent.

    “So don’t tell me to ‘make it right’ as if we just have a few misunderstandings to clear up. That woman is a narcissistic bitch, who’s only here to make herself feel better. But the worst part is, I’m just glad that at least someone will be here when I die.”

    When she finished, Flora fell into a coughing fit, and the nurse rushed in to check on her.

    When the nurse left, Flora looked at Gale and said, “I see that look on your face, it says, ‘Poor pitiful Flora.’ Well, I don’t want your pity.”

    “Then what do you want?” Gail asked.

    “What I’ve always wanted, my entire life —respect. That’s why I’m doing this my way, going out the way I want to, not the way some doctor says I should, least of all the way my mother wants me to.” Flora practically spat out that last part.

    Gale remained silent for a few moments, placed her hand on Flora’s arm, in a sympathetic gesture that Flora appreciated very much. “I respect you Flora. This interview was to make sure you understood the choice you’re making.”

    “Well, do you believe I understand what I’m doing?”

    “Yes.” Gale said. “I do. And that’s why I’m approving your request.”

    With the interview over, Flora Gould’s application to be assisted in her suicide was approved. One week later, staring up at the popcorn ceiling of her dingy room, Flora took her last breath —but she wasn’t alone. Flora’s case worker, Gale Robertson, sat at her bedside, holding Flora’s hand until the very end.

  • Ilana L
    With a whir of black and white it landed. Perched on the window sill it observed me, head cocked to one side. Black beady eyes searched my face. I lay quietly watching. I wanted to see what it would do. It peered at the breakfast tray on my trolley by the bed. Then it delicately jumped a few times towards the vegemite toast lying abandoned on my tray. Plip, jump, plip, plip and jump.

    Its wings fluttered briefly. There. It was delicately standing on the edge of the white plastic tray. A quick toilet check, it fluffed feathers and stabbed a beak briefly under one wing and then the other, all the time watching me out of one alert black eye; not quite tense but ready nonetheless to flee at the slightest hint of danger.

    I wanted to rise up, but the traction braces on my legs and one arm bade me lie still and awkward on the bed. Too much movement and pain sensors would fire up from the centre of my gut to flood my thinking processes with pleas to God asking it to stop until unable to bear more, I would clumsily fumble with the call button. Then one of the nurses would walk in briskly, one look at my face often white and tense with pain would tell them. They would check my chart and scold me for not calling earlier.

    “You shouldn’t wait for the pain to get so bad. You can have your pethidine four hourly, you know.” She would bring in the small needle on a tray and jab it in my thigh muscle after a quick rub with a Methylated Spirits swab. Both upper thighs had started to look like pin cushions.

    “We can also give you some morphine too. If the pain gets too much. Don’t be afraid to ask for pain relief.”

    “Ok, OK.” I’d mumble, not wanting to tell them that while I wanted relief from the agony, I didn’t want the mind numbing dullness that came with it. I hated the feeling of disconnected disassociation from my body that happened for several hours after the injection, I could not enjoy reading. I felt as if I was fighting through a snowstorm in my mind, unable to see clearly, groping painfully through the dulling blanket, I would get nauseous and have panic attacks or anxiety that I would be like this forever. My mind permanently a mental blob with real thinking blocked out.

    Ok, watching the bird that is where I am now. After three months in hospital, I remembered still the vividness of the crash; of metal and rubber on metal and rubber. The bike wheel going under the front of the car, the crunch of metal on metal and the crackling noise of bones crushing against metal and snapping. Thinking shit, I have a broken leg or two. The sensation of warmth that flooded my legs, pain and then numbness. A sense of hopeless horror. Being unable to move, even though I wanted very much to move. What, was it shock? My back, I thought first. Maybe I snapped my back or neck and for a few seconds I wanted to die. So useless I thought. I do not want to be so useless. Better I die here on the road. Then I thought of the expense to my parents and family. Dad had just had cancer. The expense would kill him. I had better live. Why couldn’t I have seen the car, avoided it. It was not a tough corner.

    Rough hands pulled me this way and that. I feel the bumps in the bitumen surface pressing on my shoulders.

    “Shit. Look at ‘er fucken legs. Fucken bloody mess.” My head is lifted up and some vile smelling T-Shirt is shoved under my neck. It reeks of stale smoke and beer. I want to vomit, fighting the desire to pass out. I want to scream, but trying to manage the pain takes so much effort.
    “Ere you. Youse not supposed to move ‘er till the ambulance gits ‘ere. She could ‘ave a busted spine. See.” And they start to argue among themselves. The voices fade in and out. There is a siren. I finally scream when they put blow up casts under my broken legs. The trip to the hospital is mercifully brief. I fade in and out of sharp consciousness.

    “Does it hurt?” A woman is leaning over me. Her vacant blue eyes watch me like a cat ready to pounce. I want to say, “Of course, it bloody hurts you idiot.” But I black out before I can say anything. I wake up in a hospital bed two days later. My father is sitting quietly beside my bed. He smells of pipe tobacco and eucalyptus. That is all I remember of the past months apart from the endless monotony of the days, except for the reading.

    The bird limps forward to land closer to the toast. It is then I notice she has only one whole leg. The other ends halfway down. Obviously she had been caught in some sort of trap. She watches me warily. Hop, jump, plip, plip.

    Ah yes, we have the toast. Peck peck, peck. Stop. Observe. Closer now. She suddenly opens her beak and a beautiful note rises from her throat. Her song warbles for several seconds. Then she takes a piece of the toast in her beak and takes flight through the window winging out in one graceful swoop. Her exit swiftly executed, is unlike her hesitant polite entry.

    I know then what I must do.

  • Sunsets by Carrie Zylka

    “Tell me what the sky looks like tonight my love.” Her voice was low, soft, like warm honey, but he heard her clearly from across the room.

    He put down the paper and turned towards the window. “It’s bright, a bright night, orange and red like the coals in a campfire. Some clouds scattered here and there making some red streaks.”

    He glanced at her and she was nodding slightly, eyes squeezed shut as she listened to his voice. The corners of his mouth twitched upwards at her excitement.

    “Tell me more.” She whispered, wishing she knew what a campfire even looked like.

    Her husband spoke and she soaked it up like a sponge. He painted a vivid picture of the evening’s sunset with his words and his voice caressed her broken eyesight like a lovers touch. She concentrated and tried to bring the verbal illustrations to life in the blackness.

    But she couldn’t quite bring the image into focus and for a moment she allowed the sadness to rear its ugly head. Blinded when she was a small girl, every time she tried to imagine something and couldn’t she wanted to scream. Scream at her mother for being with such a violent man. Scream at the man for throwing muriatic acid on her mother while she was holding her five year old baby girl. Scream at the world for allowing the acid to splash into her eyes blinding her forever. Scream at her mother for recovering most of her eyesight while her innocent child did not. Scream at her brain for refusing to dredge up childhood memories filled with orange and red sunsets.

    But then her husband’s voice enticed her back into the present.

    This man who drove back the demons with his armor, who was happy to take the time to describe the evening’s sunset in vivid detail, trying to make her mind see what her eyes could not.

    Her chest tightened as her heart swelled for this man. Most nights he would describe the sunset, or if it was overcast and cloudy he would create fantastical scenes for her, weaving in elements she’d never seen but nonetheless brought them to life.

    She realized he’d stopped talking and she could feel his attention focused on her. “Thank you sweetheart. I can almost see it tonight.”

    Her husband walked over and stroked her hair. Smiling, she leaned into his hand and felt blessed.

  • Ralph Jensen
    Four Hours
    by Ralph Jensen © 2016

    Dana opens her eyes. Nothing has changed. She can’t tell whether she slept for minutes or hours.

    “Derek?” No answer. She still is alone so it must be some time before 9 pm. That’s when Derek will be back.

    The lights have gone out on her before, increasingly so during the latter two years. One day she’ll be in the dark for good. That’s what the doctors say and so far things progress according to schedule.

    These were the words she used when it happened this time, on the plane: ‘According to schedule.’ Derek didn’t take it well. Her condition just doesn’t fit with his plans, certainly not those for the weekend. It’s not entirely his fault as the schedule he deals with is that of a conference where he is the keynote speaker.

    They talked about it. She could skip the speech tomorrow but the reception today is a key event. Introducing the wife to business partners is important at this point in Derek’s career.

    “She doesn’t feel well – pretty bland.”
    “What about: she fell off a cliff?’”
    He didn’t like that.

    Dana tries to take her mind off the situation but it holds tight. ‘She’s gone blind but it’s nothing to worry about’ – fine for a conference of ophthalmologists but not of architects. It’s difficult.

    First the darkness had lasted only minutes, later hours. Last time it had been three days. This was only day one – no need to worry. (‘Keep telling yourself that.’)

    Maybe she shouldn’t have taken the flight. “Flying might hasten the condition,” said the good doctor. Might. Or not. But flying sure beats ground transportation between Chicago and Hawaii.

    “Will you be okay?” It was nice of him to ask that before he left. Yes, of course. After all it isn’t the first time. And the lights might come back on any moment.

    Her hands search the nightstand and find her cell phone.

    Knowing that you’re going blind has its advantages. One can prepare – though there’s no way to be ready when it finally happens. And it’s hard to commit to a study of braille with your eyesight intact. How do you practice using a cane when you’re not really blind? Forget about guide dogs.

    No, once it happens, there will be work to be done. There will be a learning curve. In the dark.

    What caught Dana’s interest though were online videos, where a blind woman demonstrated how she made up her bed, did her hair, put on makeup, cooked, lit candles. Why in hell would a blind person light candles?

    But the video about how to use a cell phone with accessibility enabled really fascinated her. Not only could one dial entire numbers without using speed dial, one could also browse and use applications, even write and edit text – all by using a voice interface. That woman really had mastered her phone and Dana had spent considerable time reading the manual and practicing. But as it was with braille and cane: it’s hard to commit when you’re not there yet.

    So, Dana’s cell phone skills in the dark leave a lot to be desired, especially now, under pressure. What she does know with confidence though is how to browse through her contacts and dial. And dial she does.

    It rings at the other end… “Hello?”
    “Hello Conny?”
    “Dana? Do you know what time it is?”
    “Not sure.”

    There’s a meaningful silence.

    “Are you okay?”
    “Kind of.”

    Conny – bright, fast, intuitive, a good friend: “Let me guess.”

    “Yes. My eyes. Probably the flight. Nothing to worry about.”

    A few seconds elapse.

    “And you’re calling me why? Not that I complain.”
    “What time is it?”
    “1:30 am. Early evening, I know, but I have a long day tomorrow.”

    Dana needs time to digest.

    “Is everything okay? Dumb question but… how can I help? From here? Is Derek with you.”
    “Yes… no. He’ll be back… any moment now.”

    This is awkward. Dana knows it.

    “I guess I was just bored. I’ll let you sleep. I’m fine, really.”
    “Are you sure?”

    Dana ends the call. She’s not sure.

    1:30. What happened?

    The reception lasted longer. No – half an hour maybe. Or one. Not four and a half.

    He’s in a meeting, one of those spontaneous talks. No, he would have called.

    He has an affair. It was only a matter of time. Still, he would have called and told he’s in a meeting. Something.

    No, he probably stepped in front of a car. He’s dead, incapacitated, ICU. Just my luck. Then they would‘ve found the room keys, called the hotel – unless he left them at the reception. Or lost them. In the accident. Makes perfect sense.

    Relax, Dana. Relax.

    There is a mini bar somewhere across from the bed. Derek grabbed a drink yesterday and she insisted she’d take one too. By herself. She needs one now.

    She gropes her way across, finds the bar, opens it.

    What is what? Impossible to tell. Her hands fumble across the trays: peanuts, candy bars. Where’s the booze?

    Something drops to the floor, then all kinds of things. Probably a total mess.

    She draws breath, puts back a bottle or two when behind her the room door clicks shut.

    “What are you doing?” It’s Derek. He walks over, helps her clean up.

    “You’re late.” Still, she is relieved.

    “I had an interesting talk.” He places a bottle into her hand: “It’s Smirnoff.”

    “Four and a half hours? Why didn’t you call?”

    “What? It’s 9:40.”

    9:40? It hits her like a ton of bricks: Hawaii – Chicago. Time lag. Four hours.

    Dana laughs – haltingly though, because she smells it now: Diesel Loverdose – her favorite fragrance. It comes in a purple, heart-shaped vial. Derek gave her one two months ago. She ran out last week.

    Why does she smell it now? On him?

  • Carrie Zylka

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