Sarah’s last psych-eval question was “What does home feel like?”
She had spent a long time thinking before answering, remembering her upbringing and the houses and the walls and the sound of her sister listening to pop music. She remembered her mother’s voice, and her father’s laugh, and the echoing silence that accompanied a fight.
They’d had saved the loud fights for night time, when they thought Sarah asleep. All the hatred and vitriol, all the love that switches to hate when people aren’t aligned.
Sarah learned there was nothing worse than someone whose opinions almost aligned with yours. Because it meant when you butt heads, it required ignoring the whole plan. It meant that whatever difference you currently had was the difference between crossing the finish line or collapsing in a gutter, near a grate, looking for water.
So Sarah didn’t have an answer then, she had said, “I don’t know.”
The psych had nodded and made a note and then Sarah had left, with a handshake and a nod.
As if there was nothing wrong with that answer.
Sarah now sat on a sheet-less bed. Her bag, one and only, on the floor between her feet. The pillow was fresh, new and crisply white. It looked out of place amongst the tan coloured mattress and walls, and the rusted-copper green of the bed’s frame.
Sarah drank water from the tap by cupping her hands underneath the stream.
She dried her hands on her shirt.
Sarah slept in clothes, without sheets.
She watched the sun set through the window.
Sarah sat on the floor.
She ate Chinese take-out with plastic utensils.
The apartment seemed to scream at her, “Fill me, fill me, fill me,” but Sarah didn’t.
Sarah lay on the wooden floor, closed her eyes, and breathed.
And when the the landlord came around to check on her, or get rent, he never questioned her.
He nodded, bowing slightly so she could see his hair looked like a donut.
And when he left, he would look around once more, noting the lack of furniture or anything that defined Sarah had been there.
Then he saluted her.
And Sarah learned to love the silence. As it echoed off the walls and out through the windows.
Punctuated by the sounds that fought their way up from the streets, to nestle amongst the tan and rusted-copper green and make her thoughts less heavy.
We are delighted to nominate the following FlashFlood stories to the 2023 Pushcart Prize: ' The Doll House ' by Nathan Alling Long &...
CHICKEN +50 Buttermilk fried, the apogee of chicken, its chickeniest chickenness, rich gold with bite and crunch and tendern...
In case you missed any of the pieces we appeared during the 2023 FlashFlood, here's an index to everything. Happy Reading! ' They...
A shaft of sunlight fell across the worn herringbone floor, drawing his gaze upwards to the flawless blue sky beyond the row of windows, ...