The Weakest Link

No one wants to be the weak link in the chain. I know I don’t. I think my mom would say that makes me proud.

Today, I’m sharing one of the flash fiction stories I wrote in April that didn’t make the cut for the contest I’m entering at the end of this month.

I’d love to hear what you think!

The Weak Link

Shakespeare wrote that the world was a stage and people merely players in some grand fiction. In this production of her life, she wanted off the stage and out of the cast.

Today, the curtain opened on an unimaginable scene with her second son.

“I can’t believe this!” Her son whirled, hands clenching until his arms vibrated. He’d always been her passionate one.

Did he think she wanted this? If it were truly a script, surely it would be written differently.

          “I wish it could be some other way.” She’d tried to make it work the way they all wanted.

          “You’re giving up on Dad.” A glint of tears in the eyes so much bluer than hers deepened the ache in her heart.

          Heartbreak could be felt in her physical heart. Life taught her that lesson again and again. But seeing the accusation married with disbelief in her baby’s eyes stabbed deeper than any knife. And it almost undid her resolve.

          Until she recalled the near pileup outside the shower. This was the only answer. She stiffened her shoulders.

          “I’m getting him the care he needs.”

          “A nursing home? No one gets cared for in those places!”

          “An Alzheimer’s residential home. It’s a specialized nursing facility with three to one caregiver ratios.”

          Back in the day, she would have handed him a brochure, and she itched to do something useful.

          “I’ll email you the PDF.” She could probably pull it up on her phone. Except her icicle fingers wouldn’t bend.

          “It’s the same thing!”

          “No, it’s not.” She sighed, wishing the ache behind her breastbone would ease so she could get a full breath.

          The familiar ache there wasn’t a heart attack. It was worse: a panic attack. She who had administered first aid to a convulsing student in the hallway of the middle school couldn’t take care of her aging husband without having panic attacks. Talk about weak. Had she ever been the strong one?

          “You need to take care of your health,” her doctor informed her at the appointment when the panic attacks were diagnosed. “If you lose your health, who will take care of your husband?”

          Did she have to sacrifice her health? Her son thought she should. And he wasn’t alone in that opinion. A good wife cared for her husband. And she’d been trying. But it was obvious her best wasn’t good enough.

          “I can’t take care of him anymore, and the few hours of daily care from the aide isn’t enough.” There. She’d admitted she needed help. Experts said that was the first step to getting it.

          “Hire a full-time person.”

          “I can get him into this care center where he’ll get the care he needs. The care I can’t give him.” Plus, it would remove stress from her life so maybe she could stop feeling like she hyperventilated every waking moment. And no need to mention the nightmares.

          Was she truly this selfish?

          Her son crossed his arms. “So you’re just telling me. It’s not like I have a say.”

          “You’re busy with your life. I know you can’t help.” And neither could her older son, but she wouldn’t be admitting that his brother had supported this placement decision.

          “He’ll think we don’t care about him.”

          He doesn’t remember us. “This place is closer to your house, and they have friendly visitation policies.”

          He narrowed his eyes. “Which means it’s not close to you.” Color rose up his neck, flushing his pale face. “You’re going to dump him and forget about him.”

          Not even if she wanted to. He looked like the man she’d fallen in love with although he didn’t know her name most days.

“It will be close to me, too.”

          “Meaning?”

          Dear God, did she have to get into this right now? Based on the stubborn set of his pointy chin, yes.

          “I’m selling the house. I’ve reserved a condo that’s five minutes from this care center, so I’ll be able to spend time with him every day.” Time doing something other than changing him and herding him and getting pushed aside if she blocked his way to his fascination-of-the-day.

          “Mom!” Anger shook his voice.

          Fluttering in her chest had her gasping for air. She clutched at the constant ache, tried to get a breath. Her lungs were iron, and the air passage clanged like a portcullis.

          She gasped. His hand clasped her shoulders.

          “Mom!” Concern made him shriek.

          Darkness danced at the edge of her vision while shadows frolicked across the sight of her son’s anxious face.

          Dear God, she despised weakness. Why couldn’t she accept these life changes with grace? Was she truly the weakest link?

          A curtain of nothing closed around those thoughts.

2 thoughts on “The Weakest Link”

    1. Apparently, the best flash fiction leaves an ambiguous ending that readers self-supply. She had a panic attack, but if readers wanted, she could have expired at the end.

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