Flash fiction is what it sounds like – something short and to the point you can write in a flash and read in a flash, that’s usually gone in a flash. Here’s a flash fiction story I wrote called “Night Vision,” about 300 words. Not sure how the idea popped into my head, other than thinking about how family relationships are rarely viewed through a prism of logic and self-preservation. Or maybe I just created a scene in my head and let it flow from there. Probably that.
I hear him when he comes in, fumbling with the lock, trying to be quiet even though he’s half full of gin and not too sure on his feet even on his best days. I know what he’ll say if he thinks I’m awake. “Had to work later than planned, hon. That job. You’d think they’d crash and burn without me.”
I peek my eyes open just enough to see his outline: hunched, sagging in the middle, too ancient for his years. He sways back and forth. He puts his hand against the wall to steady himself. His breathing is heavy. His coat sashays to the floor when he misses the hook. He offers up a mild curse, a shake of the head, a grunt, a half-hearted effort to pick the coat up before deciding to just let the damn thing lie there.
My aunt told me not long after Mom’s funeral: “You need a steadying force in your life. Teen years are hard enough for girls. Your father, he’s a nice man, but he’s falling apart.”
A few weeks ago I followed him to his job, only to learn he no longer has a job. He stopped by the unemployment office, a flower shop, a liquor store, and then the cemetery. He planted himself beside her grave for hours, nipping at the bottle and staring down the orchids. I sat across the way, watching. The high school counselor lectured me about skipping classes.
He sees me on the sofa, faking sleep. He kisses me gently on the cheek. His breath is hard and distilled. He pats my hair and whispers “love you” before weaving toward the bedroom.
My aunt doesn’t understand why I stay with him. I don’t understand why she thinks I would ever leave.