This weekend, I’m delighted to share with you the top two stories of the Year-end Special Competition at the Flash Fiction Group I host on Scribblers.
The prompt was The End and The Beginning, with a 1000 word limit.
An Accident of Fate by Baccus
Sun Serve, 1976, LeRoy Neiman
Karl started to play tennis seriously when he was twelve. It was then that the hobby evolved into an ambition: Wimbledon, the Davis Cup, the Australian Open. He studied, took lessons, and he practiced and he practiced. As the years passed, his routine became all-consuming and his skills spectacular. He grew tall, straight and muscular, won many Junior Tournaments, and attracted a top tennis coach. At nineteen, Karl entered the professional circuit and was widely tipped as a future champion. The ultimate dream was within his reach.
Then the accident happened.
Karl couldn’t recall it, but was told that a drunken motorist swerved out of control, hitting him as he walked back home from a gym session. He woke in hospital with multiple injuries and a reconstructed lower leg. He would never play tennis again. The doctor said it might be months before he was back to full health and able to walk.
“I don’t want to live,” Karl screamed at his mother, sitting beside his hospital bed with tears streaking her face.
“You will, Karl. You will. Give it time.”
“I gave it eight years of my life, every minute of every day. Now it’s all gone. The dream is dead. Destroyed by some drunken moron who’s ruined my life as well as his own. He can rot in prison. I’m not rotting though. Not here, for months, learning to walk again like a baby.”
The accident had not only crushed Karl, but his entire family, his friends, his coach, and a large number of supporters. Young, talented and good looking, Karl had his fair share of girl fans who were in awe of him. Not now. Now he was broken – scarred and misshapen – with nothing to look forward to.
His father had built a cabinet for Karl’s awards, with plenty of space at the top to accommodate a collection of Grand Slam trophies. Karl’s throat almost closed when he thought of it. The physical pain was bearable. The emotional pain, the disappointment, was like that drunk’s car rolling over him time and time and time again.
It was worse each day he woke. They gave him tablets to help him sleep, but insomnia was better than waking up and realising every morning that his life had come to an end. He was dead, but he kept breathing and he kept waking to this … overwhelming grief.
“Try the physiotherapy, Karl, please,” his mother begged, and her pain rolled over him like that car, no, like a steamroller.
For her, he would try. One more week of misery. Then he would put a stop to it. Then he would permit himself that final kindness.
While he expected the exercise and massage sessions, Karl had not anticipated a middle-aged woman turning up with a sketch pad and set of pencils.
“You going to draw me?”
“No, Karl. You’re going to draw, anything you like, but we need to keep your hands and your brain busy. It could have been knitting or basket weaving, but your mother said you were good at drawing as a child. I’m a therapist and an artist, so I can teach you if you need any help.”
Karl recalled sketching when he was much younger, but not whether he had been good at it. He stopped years ago to devote every spare moment to tennis. Now, when he was not furious or in agony, he was bored out of his skull, so he accepted the sketch pad with thanks, and settled against the pillows wondering what the hell to draw.
One of the nurses had eyes too wide apart and a gap between her front teeth. The combination could never be described as pretty, but it was striking. He decided to draw her from memory, with a bit of imagination thrown in. He didn’t want a photographic image, but something unique that only the pencils could produce.
Hours later, his evening meal arrived. The gap-toothed nurse also appeared with his medication, so he quickly closed the sketch pad.
Next day, the middle-aged woman called by to check if he had drawn anything.
“Let me see it then.”
Karl shyly handed over the pad, opened to the first page.
“Oh dear Lord.” The therapist stared at the drawing.
Horrified, Karl saw the tears well up in her eyes.
“What’s wrong? I was just messing about.”
“Karl, in all my years I have never seen talent like this. It’s brilliant. How could you even imagine this. I recognise the person, but you have taken her face and her soul, and set them in a world where she is the … I don’t know … the queen. I don’t even understand what I’m looking at, but there is no one else on Earth who could have created this.”
“The next one isn’t so good.”
Turning the page, the therapists face paled. She stood in complete silence until Karl could bear it no longer.
“I don’t know what to-“ her voice broke, “say.”
He watched tears spill from her eyes, and he felt completely confused. “There’s one more.”
She turned the page, and after a moment, a smile broke out like sunrise.
“Karl, as far as I know, and I know a great deal on the subject, you are one of the most natural and original artists I have ever seen. You may not go far. You may never be recognised by those who count, but only if they are fools. I’m not a fortune teller, but I predict these three sketches will be worth a fortune one day. Meanwhile, you need to start producing a portfolio for the Royal College of Art.”
Baccus is a regular contributor to the Flash Fiction thread at Scribblers.
If you wish to take a look at the other great stories of the Year-End Special, here’s the link to the thread:
Or better still, come and join our bi-monthly Flash Fiction thread at Scribblers. Newcomers are always welcome. 🙂