June 5, 2015

Flash Fiction By Belinda Hubert: Paul

In addition to writing fiction and poetry, Belinda Hubert is currently working on a novel, titled Shrink Wrapped and a collection of short stories about life in the Midwest. She works as a clinical psychologist in a private practice in Lowell, Indiana. Belinda is a frequent contributor to Indiana Voice Journal.


Lub, lub, lub... Lub. Lub. Listening to his irregular heartbeat under the droning sounds of

CNN on the television, he’s thinking about being old. All the cliches apply. It’s not for sissies.

It happens so quickly. You look in the mirror and one day you’re old. He’s most surprised by

the pain. It hardly seems fair that eyesight dulls, hearing muffles, steps slow, energy ebbs.

But pain hurts just as much as ever. He falls more often, and as he’s going down, he has

time to think “Damn, that’s gonna hurt”. And it sure as hell does. Just as much as if he were

20. Only one of the mysteries and indignities of being old. One time, on the way to the

mailbox, he saw the fall coming and took off a running. By some miracle, he caught up with

himself. That was a pretty good day.

He fights depression and worry every time he looks over at his little wife, bent with age, in so

much pain, struggling with her walker to get to the bathroom. His kids say he worries in

direct proportion to the amount he loves. He admits if there was a category for that in the

Olympics, he’d take home the gold. He feels a little bit like the Hulk, but the green monster

you get when you brush his arm isn’t full of rage, he’s full of worry. The older he gets, the

better he is at keeping that guy under wraps, but the constant threat is always there. In the

dark of night when he can’t sleep, they have themselves some mighty tussles. At the risk of

getting cocky, he’s been winning for a good 15 or 20 years now and doesn’t see why that

should change. His body may be more frail and wobbly, but his will is tough as nails.

 Overall, he has to say life is still so very sweet. Way more so as time runs out. This may be

the last beautiful October he’ll see. Even if it’s not, this is one danged beautiful October.

More would be good, but he’s not greedy. He even likes the overcast days because the color

of the rain slick leaves seems to come from within them instead of being lit up by the sun.

The flowers set it off so well, too. Not every mid October still has sunflowers and red roses

blooming. How many times do you get to enjoy all this in a lifetime? He wonders again why

anyone would deliberately deprive someone of this sweet life. They sure as shit do, though,

and CNN has the exclusive ­ with footage.

He hopes his daughter is right about us not having souls, but being souls, with bodies.

Because his body is definitely more temporary than ever. He looks at his big hand with the

hair turned white and the age spots. It is still the same big paw he’s had all his life, but now, if

he pinches the skin on the back of it, it just stays sticking up like a teepee. Before it would

have bounced back, quick as you please. As fondly as he hopes to once again see his little

mommy and his sister and baby brothers, he’s not so sure they’ll be waiting at the end of a

long white tunnel. But, if we do somehow go on when we’re done being human, he knows

without a doubt what will not happen. There is no Santa­ish fella sitting up there on a cloud

making a list, checking it twice, letting Aunt Bertha die in a train wreck so that cousin Tommy

can learn some valuable life lesson. That dude is an asshole. Whatever mysterious thing

happens next ­ and he fiercely hopes our consciousness does survive our bodies ­ it’s not

dictated by some mean old guy with a long white beard sitting up on a cloud. Still, he prays

every night. It doesn’t hurt. And it’s free.

It’s odd how things seem to have sped up to a dizzying pace and slowed way, way down at

the exact same time. Before you know it, September has turned to October, which turns to

November and in seconds flat, it’s Christmas. But sometimes he feels pinned to this

excruciating second like an insect on a specimen board. Especially when he sees the pain in

Jo’s eyes. They have been married 60 years. He knows it’s there. Every day. Still, she

smiles when she looks over at him, and hardly ever complains about it. She will bitch him out

in a New York minute when she gets overwhelmed, though. He loves her so much.

He is thinking too much about a big lot of nothing. This has all been happening ever since

Eve. He sure isn’t the first or last one to have it to do. He keeps thinking he’ll find a way to get

out of it, but in the meantime, he pushes the mute on the TV remote, picks up his guitar and

sings. The sweet rhythm that reminds him he’s still here keeps time. Lub, lub, lub... Lub.


~Belinda Hubert

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