Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Short-Timers

Every Friday, Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

Short-Timers
Word Count: 600

It was a crappy restaurant, but they weren’t allowed in the nicer ones. Nicer ones were for long-timers.

Greg smiled. The food was okay. Nancy seemed nice, but Greg was too nervous to actually carry on a conversation. Another first date down the tubes.

Nancy was pretty, and pleasant, and interesting, but she seemed on edge. Maybe it was her condition, whatever that was. They weren’t really supposed to talk about it, but most couples eventually did.

Nancy smiled back. She did have a lovely smile. But she was distracted—maybe it was him.

“How’s the chicken?” asked Greg, trying to make small talk.

“Hm?” asked Nancy. “Oh, it’s fine, I suppose. Yours?”

“A little dry,” said Greg, “but it seems like every restaurant overcooks their chicken, so I guess I really can’t complain.”

Nancy smiled, and then went back to be being distracted.

Greg sighed. Yep, another first date down the tubes.

Nancy sat up straight. She seemed suddenly resolute. “So,” she said, “what’s your prognosis?”

Greg nearly choked, but saved himself. That would have made the date even shorter.

“I… you know, we aren’t supposed—”

“I know,” said Nancy. “But you know what? I say fuck protocol. It’s bad enough that they’ve made us all into second-class citizens and told us that we can’t have babies. I’m not going to keep my prognosis a secret like it’s something to be ashamed of.”

Greg jawed at the air.

Nancy leaned forward. “Listen, you seem like a nice fellow,” she said. “You’re a bit nervous, which is adorable, but I’ve been on twelve first dates this month and I’m bored of people who are condemned to die and afraid of it. I’m tired of these singles nights where depressives resign themselves to pair off for another one-nighter because they think they only have six months to live. I’m tired of it. And I’m going to stand up and walk right out of this restaurant if you’re not with me on this. So?”

Greg wasn’t sure what was going on, but whatever it was, it was interesting. “So… what was the question?”

“Are you with me?” asked Nancy.

“Okay,” said Greg.

“So you’re not afraid of whatever it is that’s going to kill you?”

“Not really,” said Greg. “But it’s not the kind of thing you can really be afraid of.”

Nancy leaned in and whispered. “So what is it?”

“Are you sure that’s something you want to talk about on a first date?” Greg whispered back.

“I’ll leave if you don’t tell me right this—”

“Congenital heart failure,” said Greg.

Nancy sat back. “One minute you’re alive, then—boom—dead before you hit the ground.”

Greg shrugged. “Could be today, could be when I’m eighty.”

Nancy nodded. “Which is pretty much the exact opposite of mine.”

Greg looked around warily. “Which is?”

“You sure you want to know?” asked Nancy.

“Well,” said Greg, “I told you mine.”

“Huntingtons,” said Nancy.

Greg nodded. “Drawn out,” he said. “That would terrify me.”

“Well, it’s better than the uncertainty of knowing you could go at any minute,” said Nancy. “How does that not keep you awake at night?”

Greg shrugged. “It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I just go on like I’ve always done, assuming I’ll always be here. Assuming that I’ll be the one in a thousand that defies the prognosis and lives a long and happy life.”

“Doing what?” asked Nancy.

“Well, I’d always figured I’d find someone who would need taking care of.”

Nancy bit her lip and raised an eyebrow.

“You wanna get out of here?”

Edited by Carolyn "Ultimatums? On A First Date?" Abram.

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