Fiction 2013 / flash fiction / Volume 43

The Tide — Carol Scott-Conner

The tide rushes through a chasm in your heart. A rift, where there should be a wall. An abyss, where there should be a barrier. And that tide carves a canyon, water wearing away rock, blood on tissue, tearing the living fabric of your life asunder. Your head bobs from the force of your pulse. Your doctor says it is time.

You watch me pack your bag. Toothbrush, toothpaste, robe, slippers. Which book to take? Words unsaid between us. You might not come home from this trip.

In the night I cradle your body, and we both feel the fruitless churning of your blood. I rise early, eat a meager breakfast alone. Fasting, you brush your teeth; gasping from the effort. I put your bag in the car and drive you to the hospital.

Too soon they put you into a sleep so deep there are no dreams, set you into a small boat riding the waves, a dinghy, a mere skiff. They stop your heart, replace that worn-out valve. Restart your heart. And then, they say, it is up to you. You – cast adrift on that outgoing tide, in a boat with no oarlocks, no sails, no rudder. Oh beat back against that tide, back toward me.

What can anchor you to me? What hold out against that tide, keep you back from the abyss? In time, the tide always turns and floods back inland, if one can only wait.

Your surgeon placed the last stitch, stretched, and went home for the night. I sit at your bedside, watch you breathe. The moon rises, pulling the tide behind it. My hand your anchor against the current, watching the tracing of your pulse, marveling at the stillness of your body, waiting for the tide to turn.

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