The Pick 2009

Pick 2009
Where Does the Mind Go? by Annie Cardi

Can we talk in the hall? It’s a little too much in here, don’t you think? All these flowers—who even sends them? Do you find it hard to think over the constant beeping? Isn’t it like a little hammer beating into your brain after a while? Is he going to be okay alone?

Is he as bad as he looks? Does he look worse than the other people in the ICU? Worse than anyone else you’ve seen? All the breaks and bruises on his face, are they going to heal? Will he look like he did before? Do you need me to bring in a picture? The most recent we have is from his junior prom, is that all right? God, why can’t I stop talking? There’s nothing to be nervous about, right? Will you please tell me I don’t have anything to be nervous about?

The tests? How long is he going to last? Days? Months? Years? Could he go at any second? What does that mean? Where is that? What about the rest of his brain? Is there anything there? What does that mean for the rest of his body? Can you just tell me straight? Will you use words I can understand?

What do you mean, there isn’t anything else? At all? Have you looked hard enough? Can you look again? Aren’t there other tests? These things change sometimes, right? You’ve seen miracles around here, right? How many of these patients walk out of here two weeks later? Haven’t you seen that before?

Now? Can’t we wait and see? Doesn’t he still have a little part of his brain? A little is all you need, right? It’s not like he used it a whole lot before, right?

Oh, God, why am I making jokes?

I never liked that he rode that bike, did you know that? I’d tell him he could get a better part-time job, maybe not kill himself to deliver goddamn packages, and he’d say, “What other job lets you fly like this?” Did he think he was flying when he got hit? Could you see that in the CAT scan? What did you see in there? Is it all broken? Are there parts that are still intact? His sense of smell? His first Christmas? Did you see me? Would he want me to do this?

Can he hear anything? Can he hear my voice out here?

Are you sure that’s just it? Isn’t there something still there? He’s still alive somewhere in there, right? Isn’t that what the beeping means? What do you mean, these machines are keeping him alive? What kind of machine can do that? Is there really a plug? Am I the one who does it?

Copyright © 2009 Annie Cardi

Why I chose this story:
Writing a flash piece is considerably harder than one might think before trying it for themselves. You aim to tell a story, a full story and not just a scene from something larger, with only a handful of words. To do this with nothing but questions, interrogative sentences back-to-back-to-back, and do it well, is a sign of mastery. This is precisely what Annie Cardi accomplished with “Where Does the Mind Go?” (Heck, even the title was a question!). The reader quickly understands the setting and characters without any omniscient narration or scene painting. Presented as a sort of rambling spiral into sorrow and doubt, the story seems to have touched each of the five stages of grief as the parent figure copes with the medical situation at hand. With only 456 words, Cardi managed to draw the reader into the shoes of the questioner. What would I do if my child was brain-dead? Could I “pull the plug” on my loved one? This story stands apart as a unique presentation of flash fiction while demonstrating Cardi’s ease with story crafting in general and, perhaps most importantly, manages to tug at the heartstrings of the reader with less than one page of text. Well done.
Cameron Filas

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