KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 11: Spring 2019
Haibun: 318 words

Alka-Seltzer

by Rich Youmans
 

I remember the odor of damp leaves drifting in through the screen door. The pizza crusts piling on our plates. How, on his third slice, Ray began debating pepperoni versus mushroom—Why would you eat fungus?—then started in on his worst toppings ever. Anchovies and chocolate sauce. Pickles and pig’s feet. Sardines and shoelaces—dirty old shoelaces! Peg rolled her eyes, the way she always did when Ray got going, and you laughed, just like in the old days: your eyes bright, your dark curls bouncing, head bobbing up and down, yes, yes! Then your jaw then did that little hitch—a recent development—and you began to stutter: Al... Al...

Alcatraz, you finally said.

I remember how we all fell silent.

nothing left to say

Sometimes I thought of alphabet soup: vowels and consonants roiling and drifting, you trying to stir them into words you once knew. The neurologist had a different metaphor. Explaining the scan—that dark island growing at your brain’s core—he likened it to a bridge losing girders: “The load gets heavier for those beams left, until they can’t take the weight and collapse.” You just sat there, quiet. You had no metaphor. You just had your life.

twilight shadows grow

I remember how Peg got that look and quickly drank her beer. How Ray stared at you, his head nodding once, twice, before his gaze lowered to the plateful of crusts. How your eyelids slammed shut like cell doors. How I sat there, quiet, running through combinations of letters and sounds, as if trying to open a padlock. Finally they all clicked and I said the word out loud. Your eyelids fluttered but did not open, and I wondered where you were—out there on your island, standing on that bridge. When your eyes finally opened, you looked at me and nodded, as if to a stranger.

into night’s deep

 

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