A Bad Dream by Dan Crawley | Flash Fiction | #thesideshow

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June 2, 2017



I check my parents’ room. Next I step down into the sunken living room where I find my mother sleeping in the leather recliner. The way her head rests on her shoulder reminds of an egg teetering on the edge of a counter. The TV is on, morning news’ weather segment, a hot one today. I’m here instead of my dad’s hospital room, where I’ve been all night, because Dad wants her to sit with him for the rest of the morning. My siblings’ flights hurtle over different parts of the country.

In the long-drawn-out hours, Dad assured me. “This is nothing.” His hands trembled, fingers loosely mingled on his chest. “When I was your age, I fell asleep behind the wheel and flipped my Impala three times just two miles from Munds Park. I almost lost my leg. But that wasn’t the worst part.” And he coughed and coughed like a sputtering engine. “The worst part was being stuck upside down…in that bashed up Impala.” I offered him the beige plastic cup with a long straw. He drew the remaining water out in a few seconds. Eventually, his bleary gaze settling on the mute TV, he went on, “I hung there thinking about your mom, about all of you kids…who were just sparkles in my eye.” Now Dad’s cough was a tumbling towel in a dryer. “Your mom wanted me to stick around Phoenix after I asked for her hand…instead of getting back up to Flagstaff for work in the morning. I told her,…I said, ‘Baby, I got to get going. It’s late.’ And she scolded me…like she does…said I didn’t mean it: asking her to be my wife.” His chuckle turned rough and initiated another convulsive attack. “This,” he finally got out, “is… pittance.”

I looked at his feet sticking out from the thin sheet, his toenails long pistachio shells.

When I wake my mother, she tells me she was having a bad dream. “It was horrible. I got no sympathy at all. I was just dreaming you kids showed up my hospital bed and laughed at me. Laughed at my misery. No one makes fun of your dad,” she hisses. “No one says he’s faking.” She reaches out her arms, needing help out of the recliner. I offer her my hand and she vice-grips my forearm. “Why couldn’t he have beaten all of you growing up? That way I could’ve scooped you up in my arms to soothe you.”

About the Author

Dan Crawley lives in Phoenix, where high temperature records are broken way too often. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, apt, The Airgonaut, Jellyfish Review, Flash Frontier, and other nice places.