Maria Thomas, LISP 2022 Flash Fiction LISP Finalist by 'The Things I Don't Say'
THE THINGS I DON'T SAY
It takes you two hours to dig the hole, and it takes us two hours to dig you out. By then you’re rigid, palms raw where you tried to gouge yourself free in your panic. The medic forces his fingers into your jaw, scoops out the silica. I don’t say it’s futile, I don’t say you’re gone.
That morning, as we settled in, you brandished your spade like an epee, shouting ‘en garde’, trying to lighten my mood. I didn’t say you’re funny, and I didn’t laugh. I was still sulking, still angry, wanting to hurt you by saying nothing.
“You’re my best-mate” you’d said before, as we stood smoking outside the bar. I inhaled the smoke as hard as I could, dragging the pain inwards so I couldn’t speak. I didn’t say I want more. I didn’t say I love you. I didn’t say I’ve loved you since the moment we met.
You winked and pulled me in for a one-armed hug, before disappearing inside to your latest, leaving me choking on the bitterness of best-mate.
“I’m going to dig to Australia” you said, and I hid my green eyes behind dark glasses, buried my thoughts in my book. I didn’t say be careful. I didn’t say it’s dangerous. I didn’t say sand holes can collapse. I didn’t say it’s difficult to dig people out.
I’m unsure how long you’re entombed before I raise the alarm. I’m too preoccupied with my jealousy, begrudging your easy charm, wide smile, that twinkle in your eyes. Those things I adore but don’t say.
Much later I listen to the grief of your mother on the other end of the line. I don’t say he didn’t suffer. I don’t say I’m to blame. I don’t say I’ll miss him too.