Flash Fiction

At the Far End of the Ocean – Len Kuntz

    We are trying to find the end of the ocean, reasons for dying, for taking one’s own life.
    “It’s so beautiful,” Mia says. Then adds, “And awful.”
    The sun is a white blister. Sand crystals clings to Mia’s face making her look like a prophet or a statue of one.
    In the distance gulls flit in the sky. A skiff bobs nearby, then disappears. I want to ask Mia if she saw the boat or if I imagined it, but using the words “disappear” or “gone” would be the same as gouging our organs out.
    Tears slip down Mia’s cheek, muddying the grit so it seems she’s crying sludge.
    “He promised,” she says.
    I nod, even though I know she’s not looking.
    For most his life, my brother was king. Good things clung to him without him even trying. Then, out of nowhere, a bad week, bad months, everything black and sketchy.
    “I hate him for what he did,” Mia says, and I nod again.
    My brother said he would check himself into a clinic. However, the next day he drove to the ocean. He might have just been swimming, but a note is all we have now.
    “I can’t think of anything more selfish,” Mia says, and I agree.
                                       * * * * *
    That night we sit under palm trees staring at an infinite twilight.
    When Mia kisses me, I say, “I’m not him.”
    “I know.”
    “I was never him, never could be.”
    She pats my hand. Hers is soft, creamy and warm. She says, “Tell me a story.”
    I describe the day he dared me to shoplift something. I stole a squirt gun that looked like an AK47. Even though I ran, the fat manager still caught up to me. My brother ripped his own shirt off and flopped it over the guy’s head, momentarily blinding him, which was enough time for me to get away.
    “He was always saving me.”
    “Ha! But he got you into that one.”
    “True.”
    She chuckles, flashing the first smile I’ve seen in months. It makes me dizzy and queasy, and maybe she can tell what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling, and how I’ve always felt about her, because she kisses me again and says, “Would it be so wrong?”
    “Yes.”
    “Are you sure?” Her mouth is sticky and tastes like pomegranate, her breath a fire inside my ear.
    “Yes.”
    But then we entwine and there’s no stopping or letting go or holding back, yet there’s also a beast inside me, beating my lungs, pounding and pressing for release, this guilt monster saying, Tell her. Tell her what you did and why your brother’s gone.

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