prompt: welcome, title: the life after in misc. flash fiction

  • April 6, 2021, 12:39 a.m.
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  • Public

I’d been looking forward to that second vaccination, also been dreading it, for many reasons, one of which was significant side effects from the first. Severe headaches five days afterward. Better than death but unpleasant, nonetheless. No one’s idea of a good time, let alone my histrionic ass.

Still, I braved a thunderstorm and drove up to the college’s gym, my duty not just to myself but everyone around me. “Welcome,” the woman at the front desk said when my turn came around, “you’re Helene’s son, right?” My mom still works part-time in public health even in retirement. “Yeah. You work with her?” “Same building, different department.” Then she continued…

“Your dad did something wonderful for my family, you need to know how much it meant to us.” Years ago, we’d found an old tin sign from a defunct grocery in a family garage. We cleaned it up, wondered if we should display it, if we should sell it, maybe. Good examples of those signs can clear four figures with collectors. My father said, let’s research it first, find out if that family is still around. It would only be right to return it if it meant something important to them.

“My dad grew up in that shop,” she said, “he passed away in his nineties back October but I must tell you, having that piece of family history back gave him such joy. Your dad wouldn’t even let us pay him, just happy it was back where it belonged. Your dad was a great man, I want you to know that.”

I’d been dreading the follow-up shot for deeper reasons than headaches. My father passed away two years before this whole mess started and honestly I’m still climbing up out of that chasm.

Awful as the pandemic’s been for all, there was a weird sick silver lining in it for me. Everyone’s been feeling as dissociated and uncertain in the plague-times as I’ve been since I lost my father. I felt less alone in my anxieties. But when this dark cloud finally passes over, when herd immunity frees you all to something like normal, I’ll be on an island once again, more alone than ever.

I fear this world will rev back up while I’m left behind inside my trauma, even more off the pace of this long-awaited after than I was before. The notion of our forced leveling ending, as marked by that second shot in the arm, it weighed volumes more than any immunological reaction.

And there he is again, boomeranging back by the butterfly-effect of a good deed, reminding me to do what’s right despite the cost, how good sometimes comes back around to you. I held to my father’s commission, got my vaccination and drove home.

Four more days of screaming headaches, of course, but it was the right thing so I did it. I’m not the good man my father was but despite all of the migraine storms I am trying at it, nonetheless.

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