flash fiction with this piece. Taking a prompt in The 3 AM Epiphany, this is a fiction based on a personal memory. It incorporates details from my own life into a short story of fewer than 250 words.
"Waiting Room Blues"
by Celeste Hollister
Word Count: 249 words
Cheerful to the point of ridiculous, the Christmas tree crouches in the corner. Cartoons blare on the waiting room TV. A man and his daughter play "I spy." Another guy peels an orange. The spray fans out, golden on the sterile air. He shares it with a woman. A cousin? A sister? His wife?
I check for rings; she's got a half dozen. He grins at her. She asks how he's been doing. He lies and says he's been okay.
Then the tinny announcement sounds: Visiting hours are over.
The scuffling of feet. The hush of voices. Parting hands slide away. The lobby empties as a counselor collects each patient. The visitors wave, smile, and evaporate.
I remain. Me, the tree, and Shrek on TV.
The desk clerk hisses out a sigh.
She knows me. She is long past sympathy.
I think, Why do I keep showing up? Am I even on your list?
Then I wonder, If not me, then who? We long chased off all of our friends.
I collect my notebook, my phone, the stupid stocking stuffed with Snickers.
Yes, I still remember. So happy holidays, asshole. I guess I'll see you around.
Then I'm out in the snow and it soaks through my socks and I'm cold and I'm mad and I just want... Something.
Streetlights blur to banded halos. Cold sinks in like a demon's teeth. I go home, and I wonder, When will I decide to just leave well enough alone?