When the last visitor finally left, Daniel poured himself  a drink.  He
collapsed onto the  overstuffed chair, feeling a tear tickle its way down his
cheek.   He wiped it away with the back of  his hand and sipped the scotch in
his glass. His parents' three-room apartment seemed uncluttered, now that the
oversized hospital bed had been removed from the living room.  His father had
set it up there so his  mother wouldn't be isolated during the day.  The portable
oxygen tank she once lugged around like an unwilling dance partner no
longer occupied the corner near the  couch.

The medical apparatus had been removed months ago,  reminding him how long
it had been since his last visit. Daniel felt numb.  So much flashed through his mind,
no single thought took hold.  He couldn't decipher what he was feeling:  grief, certainly;
shock, of course. But also relief.  And  guilt.

He took another sip.

Daniel had never seen his father cry, not even at the  funeral.  The old man
seemed too  busy making arrangements, shaking hands and nodding at
well-meant comments about  how much Beatrice would be missed.  He thought his
father was doing well and allowed himself to return to his  own confused life.

At first, he  called daily; then less often, always promising to visit.
His wandering thoughts found their way to Elaine, his ex-wife.  The
marriage had ended  three years earlier, with both sides agreeing they had
already stayed together too long. But now he wished she were here.  Loneliness
was worse than even watching the woman you love  die.

Just two months after his mother's death, his father was  dead from a drug
overdose.  Although  ruled accidental, Daniel knew.  His  mother's secret
stash of sleeping pills was missing along with the pills  prescribed to his
father.  And he  found the half-finished bottle of scotch under the sink
behind the dishwashing detergent.  His father never drank,  even on New Year's

Daniel took another sip of the hidden scotch and toasted  his dad.  He felt
his body shake and the tears return.  This time, he wouldn't stop them.

Wayne Scheer has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes  and a Best of the Web.  Among others, his work has 
appeared in The Christian  Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, The Pedestal Magazine, flashquake,  Smokelong
Quarterly, and Pindeldyboz. A  collection of twenty-four flash stories is available as a free download at  Wayne lives in Atlanta with his wife and can be contacted at

Sometimes I can pinpoint exactly where an idea for a story  originated. But for this one, I'd like to paraphrase Arlo Guthrie's response when asked where he gets ideas for songs.  If I go out to the  creek at the edge of my property at just the right time, he said, I can  reach in and pull out a song.  I'm just grateful I don't live  downstream from Bob Dylan.




Copyright 2009