KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Haibun: 407 words

The Life You Save

by Rich Youmans

He sees it while cleaning out her dresser drawers. Small and dark-bodied, the spider moves down the bedroom wall as steadily as a teardrop. Instantly, he wants to kill it: It reminds him too much of the one he found in Ann’s bed that last week of hospice, whose bite swelled her leg so badly her ankles disappeared—the final indignity.

deep in the closet     her ashes weighing down shadows

He gets the clear plastic cup from the bathroom and, from his nightstand, the dog-eared postcard with “Thinking of You” written across it in big block letters. He puts the cup over the spider, wedges the card beneath the lip, then flips the cup upright: with a soft tic, the spider drops to the bottom. He brings it to eye level. This close, he sees the colors mottling the abdomen: raw umber, dark caramel, a few spots of beige. He wonders what the spider is thinking—whether it’s scared, or confused, or just amazed at how everything it knows can change so suddenly.

diagnosis     somehow, the sky still blue

He heads toward the bathroom, then stops. If Ann were here, she would tell him to take it outside right now, before turning her attention to the spider: “Hello, little guy. Do you want to be with your friends?” Spiders, inchworms, white-winged her, they were all just lost travelers in need of help. She’d capture them, take them out to the backyard, to the rim of sandy soil under the oak, and set them free. “Go play,” she’d say, always with a big smile and a small wave good-bye.

night prayers     his folded hands wring out one more plea

He looks again at the spider, pictures that big smile. For the first time in a while, he smiles back. Holding the postcard in place, he goes downstairs and out into the yard. Under the oak, he turns the cup over and shakes it a few times. The spider drops to the ground and its coloring changes, lightening with the soil’s tans and khakis. It maneuvers over a small pebble and heads away from him, into the yard’s tall grass. He watches for a few seconds, wondering if maybe it’s just camouflage and the spider will reappear. “Go play,” he says, finally, and waves his hand—a brief movement, just enough to say good-bye.

burying her ashes among deep roots     scent of rain

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