Bloody hell! The blow to the head hurt a lot more than expected. Charlie, the cleaner, hovered over me as I lay on the cold marble floor of the museum. I could feel blood trickling down my face and into my collar at the back of my neck—damn, it would stain my uniform. I tried to scramble up when Charlie pushed me back down with more force than I felt was necessary—I mean, I’m pretty sure I had also hurt my back when I fell.
“Now just lay there and relax Tommy, the ambulance is on its way,” Charlie said, concern in his voice, “did you see who hit you? There was no-one around when I saw you here…” Charlie trailed off when he glanced to the floor and bent to pick up something. He handed me a folded black card with a golden ribbon still neatly tied around it. I recognised the extravagant design as my mother’s wedding invitation, which must have fallen out of my jacket pocket. “I think you dropped this,” he said as I took it from him reluctantly.
This would be my mother’s third marriage. As her only son, she had asked me to give her away—again. I was approaching thirty, working nights as a museum security guard, next door to the café I worked days as a barista. When I told my dear mother that I could not take time off to go to Fiji for her three-day wedding, she had laughed it off as if I were joking. A trip to Fiji would do me good, she had said, maybe I would even meet a ‘nice girl’ at the wedding. I had zoned out. And given in.
The ambulance arrived, and they shifted me across to the narrow stretcher. As the ambulance doors closed on Charlie’s concerned face, I relaxed. I knew I still had to give details of my assailant to the police, but for now, I had a few minutes to myself without being hounded about the wedding, where I was going, and who I was taking. I had made no travel plans and hadn’t yet told my mother—but I wasn’t going. I had to strategize how I would tell her—what I would tell her. I knew both my bosses would reduce my casual shifts, probably permanently, if I took time off for no good reason. I had rent and debts to pay. No way could I afford that drama. But after a workplace injury? Well, maybe my bosses wouldn’t dare after I returned to work from a few days off due to injury. And maybe a bit of workers’ compensation might be in the cards, hey? And that would be the icing on the cake—make all this pain worthwhile.
My mother didn’t understand my situation. When we last spoke about the trip she had acted as if I had a few thousand lying around. She had pre-paid the flights and hotel, and I was the only one who hadn’t reimbursed her. She graciously told me I could do so at the wedding this weekend—since I was her son. Gee, thanks, Mum. Hopefully, this stint in the hospital would take care of my problem—can’t travel with a head wound. And a bad back.
I heard the police officers ask for me outside my hospital room. It was showtime, and I mentally prepared for the performance I was about to give. I froze for a moment though, as a flash of awareness struck me—why was it easier for me to smash my head up against a wall than discuss feelings with my mother? Thankfully, it was only for a moment.
© Josie Kirkwood 2020
Previously published in ‘Tempest In Under 1000’ on Medium 7 March 2020. Revised 18 July 2020.
Flash Fiction is very short fiction, usually between ~300 and ~1500 words. Sometimes written to a prompt and tight deadline, these stories provide creative challenges. They also provide opportunities to write in different genres and can inspire a longer piece of fiction.