Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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Flash Fiction
399 words
SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Health Care

by Dick Bentley

On this hill, in this clump of trees at the edge of the golf course, I sit with the wind swaying the daisies. Now distant Bernardini’s milky eyes are focused on the golf ball as he bends down before putting. He studies the ground. He analyzes the lie, the turf, the wind. Bernardini is President of the Health Group that has denied me treatment. The treatment is too experimental for my tumor, the bean counters said. So I am to die. And so is Bernardini. The sun oozes across the sky; the breezes undulate over my skin. My heart beats with the systole and diastole of waves against a breakwater, and boredom creeps over me like vines. I know what I want: an event, by which I mean a squeeze of the trigger of the weapon now aimed at Bernardini’s distant heart, as he kneels over his tiny white ball on the eleventh hole. His golfing partners, more health care executive Pension plan investors, insurance dealers. A little acidic gossip. A little high-tech megadeath, a sharp thing that will wake them up. Then run a street sweeper over the eleventh green, turn the breeze up to hurricane so the daisies’ heads tear off and hurtle through the air like bullets. A melon-burst, the tomato-colored splatter, Bernardini raises his arms as he kneels as if sniffing the air. His wings are spread for flight. He’s howling like a siren, and he finally has everyone’s full attention, before he rolls over like a noon pigeon.

Everyone gets a turn and now it’s mine. But some get more turns than others, and I’ve never had a turn, not one. You think I didn’t hate their pity, their forced kindness. They are pointing now toward this clump of trees. I could have a few more of them by the time they sentence me to death.

I’ll already be dead. You can wipe your feet on me, twist my motives around all you like, dump stones on my head and drown me in the river. What we want, of course, is nothing more than the same old story: the trees pushing out their leaves, shucking them off; the unfurling of slugs; the worms vacuuming the dirt; the daisies and their pungent slow explosions. We want it all to go on and on again, the same thing each year, monotonous and amazing.


3 MAY 2018 UPDATE: Serving House Journal editors are pleased to nominate this story for the debut anthology Best Microfiction 2018.

SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Dick Bentley’s

second career focuses on creative writing. More than 250 of his poems, short stories, and memoir works have been published in the US, the UK, France, Canada, and Brazil, and he is the author of three books: A General Theory of Desire (2015) and All Rise (2014), both from Pelorian Digital; and Post-Freudian Dreaming (Amherst Writers & Artists Press, 2002). He won The Paris Review/Paris Writers Workshop International Fiction Award, and his short story “Promised Land” was selected for Best Fiction & Nonfiction of 2012 in the Lukather-Garson anthology.

Bentley served on the Board of the Modern Poetry Association, graduated from Yale and the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and has taught creative writing at the University of Massachusetts. His first career as an urban planner took him to Chicago’s Old Town and Woodlawn neighborhoods as well as to San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill; Washington, DC’s Georgetown; New York’s upper west side; Brooklyn’s Park Slope; and Boston’s Beacon Hill. He was Chief Planner for the Mayor’s Office of Housing in Boston and Planning Director for the Boston Housing Authority. He has held similar positions with neighborhood groups, and with private developers of affordable housing. His planning activities led to his book American Neighborhoods, a twitchy version of slick coffee-table books like The Ten Most Beautiful Villages of Tuscany (or Dordogne, or Brittany, or Wherever).

Author’s website:

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury