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Flash Fiction / Catherine O'Brien


Issue 3. January 15, 2022

Anyone who has ever stanched a wound has experience as a surgeon, anyone who has ever loved has taken a scalpel to the torpidity of this world. 

          Who could have known that the scented waters of the bath would be just the trick? As I rub a loofah in light, even strokes up and then down the trellis of your spine, you tell me about your travels. I stop myself from interjecting when you get to my favourite part, our first kiss under the waterfall in Tanzania when the spray and real tears mingled to dampen our faces. 

          Your words are a virulent surprise.

          ‘We were so in love, him and I. Everything was right, we were specially commissioned pieces to complete our grand puzzle.’

          I’m in that moment of falling for you when all else ground to a halt then I’m brought out of reverie when you slap the water, you’ve forgotten the next part. 

          ‘Words are just treats, too many can be sickly’, I say. ‘They do not nourish our bond, that’s o.k. That's unspoken.’ You nod and somewhere, sometime you know. 

          Your mind is still capable of simple metaphor and so I populate our space with objects and faces that symbolise us. I content myself knowing any one of them could give a memory its wings. I want you to know that I’m unsure about most things but never about you. I want more than anything for you to remember that time nor circumstance can change that which is immutable. I wish you still knew that I exist in your shadow and I’m happy for you to monopolise the sunshine. I fear the thievery of disease. 

          When I hoist you from the water the spell is broken, your mermaid legs are gone, replaced with those of a marionette. I see what it’s doing, this disease is no guileless fool - it knows how to steal. It under-estimates me, not knowing how exacting I can be about the things I love. I will counterattack by being your strength, by knowing with unshakeable certainty you have no inherent weakness. I will torpedo its lies. 





Catherine O’Brien is an Irish writer of poems, flash fiction and short stories. She writes bi-lingually in both English and Irish. Her work has appeared in print and online in Iris Comhar, Idle Ink, The Raven Review, Virtual Zine and other fine publications. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Janus Literary, Flash Boulevard, Loft Books, Ellipsis Zine, Splonk, Flyover Country Literary Magazine, The Birdseed and more. You can find her on Twitter @abairrud2021.

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