Drama Fiction Sad

You stow the Polaroid in the icebox because that's the only way a moment remains frozen in time. Pardon the cliche, Richie. I know how much you hate those, but you understand, don't you?

The logical explanation is this: wedged between black-eyed peas (defrosted thrice for a purple cheek on different occasions) and the neglected backside of the freezer (where fantastical stalagmites encroach tater tots) you preserve a memory.

Richie, if you'd wear your parka you wouldn't catch a cold and you wouldn't need a cast on your right arm. Your father wouldn't have lost his mind buying you medicine with his beer money. It's alright, though. I snapped a Polaroid (North Pole, Polar Bears, Polaroid in the icebox, get it?) the day those men in sterile coats plastered your freewill into a 90-degree angle. I covered every last inch of white with doodles and documented the nanosecond. You smiled cause I couldn't draw a cat. That's when I caught you forever.

I buried it between twin steaks of mediocre quality, right around the time the red hues of your eyes and your dinosaur pajamas commenced screaming through the ink.

The icebox is missing from my room. I've paced the floor extensively, but for every round I complete, a new admonition awaits.

"Mrs. Duboise, you need to lie down."

And someone with a blank face grabs my paper wrists and leads me toward the bed.

Once upon a time, the tooth fairy visited. I didn't see her, personally. But I believed you, Richie. She must've stowed the tooth behind the fudge pops, and isn't that odd? A faded patch of red pokes between the yellowed ice. No need for a photograph that time.

In a land far, far away, we dressed up like hobos and skipped from front porch to front porch on Halloween. We didn't have money for a costume so we just went as ourselves. I tied a scarf to a stick and you slung it over your bony shoulder.

Remember turning 17, Richie? We hid in your bedroom and played video games until the static chaos of the hallway simmered to murmurs. I snapped a Polaroid that afternoon, because the green of your eyes was dark enough to shatter the window frames.

"Mrs. Duboise, please lie down. It's time for your medication."

Don't make me, Richie. Don't make me swallow the pills; I'm driven to delusion. The white one forces slumber and the blue one lucidity. If I swallow, decades of orange juice and cinnamon buns crinkle in the waste basket. Oh, they say it's for the best. Burn the Polaroids, Mrs. Duboise. Fire is cleansing.

If only you'd call back, then I could rest. We shouldn't fight, of course. You just couldn't understand the Polaroids in the icebox. All the moments, inflicted with freezer burn, it was too much for you.


No, No, No. The blue pill. It forces confrontation with your green eyes, tear-brimmed and weary. You're tearing the Polaroids from their icy graves and scattering them across the faded tile. A cockroach scuttles over your 13th birthday.

"Mrs. Duboise, you mustn't scream. You're keeping the others awake."

The white pill wraps its pallid fingers around the drapes. I fade away, and I am nameless, and you are shapeless in a grave.


The antiquated hand of the clock hovers between 11 and 12, leaving all to dwell in the purgatory that is neither morning nor afternoon. I am entranced by the rhythmic dance of the minute hand as it skips across the circular face.

"Mrs. Duboise, would you like to go outside?"

A mere nod suffices. Words live only in my head these days, and when they escape my lips, I'm no more human than the clock.

The garden is teeming with spring. Bees chase through flirty pinks and timid blues, and the grass sways with every April sigh. It reminds me of my son. His birthday was in April. We used to wander through the park and plop critters in mason jars, until their captivity begged remorse. Richie spent more time tenderly relocating his cargo than catching it.

If I had known how fleeting those moments would be, I'd have savored them. But of course, his father. His father bought the camera. He must've felt a twinge of guilt for placing Richie and I in mason jars and shaking us around like helpless caterpillars. I couldn't leave him, I had no future. And Richie would always be too young to understand.

I watch an ant contemplate the tip of my slipper, indecisive and probing. It trembles, stands on hind legs, and tastes the air. But the mountain of faded gray must appear too daunting, for the ant backtracks into the mulch with preferred certainty.


You stow the pills in the pillowcase because that's the only way a moment remains frozen in time. I know it's that cliche again, Richie, but surely you understand.

The logical explanation is this: wedged between the pillow case (yellow with snot and time) and my head (which feels lighter by the day) I preserve our memories.

The Polaroids hide with the crumbs and your father drowns himself in liquor. But you, Richie, you just took a test drive in the old truck to blow some steam. You'll call any minute and I'll explain how ice freezes smiles into place.

When you call, I'll tell you all about the pictures snuggled under blankets of frost and you'll laugh and say, "yeah, boy, what a life."

It won't seem so disconcerting, once you understand.

I can't organize the Polaroids, Richie, because they took away my icebox. But I have a tooth in my nightstand. It must be the one the tooth fairy left behind. I couldn't leave your father. If you saw the ant, you'd understand.

If only the clock would make up its mind, then I'd know whether to make cinnamon buns for breakfast or hot dogs for lunch.

November 29, 2020 20:33

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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