The following selection of flash fiction rises up to the challenge of showing exhaustion.
Writers crafted everything from the first push of birth to the final days in front of the telly; from job dissatisfaction to grieving a recent passing. Even unicorns get exhausted.
June 11, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about exhaustion. Who is tired and why.
Why They Call It Labor by Paula Moyer
Push. Again. Oh, not done yet?
Jean had pushed for two hours. No baby’s head emerging yet. Her body was coated in a patina of sweat.
Lynn, the nurse-midwife, had suggested pushing on the toilet, and it seemed like a good idea. But nothing.
“Let’s go back to the bed and think this through,” Lynn said.
The bed. Eight feet and a universe away from the bathroom. Baby’s head somewhere in her pelvis.
“I’ll need help,” Jean whispered. Her husband, Lynn, and came together.
She walked. The head pressed.
“Oh, God! This hurts!”
He was born forty-five minutes later.
Muddy Ride by Kalpana Solsi
She bent down and with her left hand supporting her hip, winced, continued scrubbing each depression of the tyre with the brush to dislodge the caked mud. She poured water over the scrubbed tyres and continued with cleaning the steel body. Her T-shirt and track pant having been soaked in sweat, she wiped the beads of perspiration to her sleeves, climbed the steps to enter her cottage.
She passed by his room, tiptoed and looked admiringly at sleeping David, smiled and kissed the gleaming trophy at his bedside. He was now a big boy and hated to be kissed.
Exhaustion by Irene A. Waters
The barrow slows as though it too is overcome with tiredness. Jack battles the urge to sleep. He has to keep awake. He has to be ready for any chance to escape his captor but the soothing rocking motion of the barrow lulls him gently until his eyelids droop and the flicker of his struggle is no more.
“You said twenty-four hours.You promised.” Spent, she sat.
The police officer glanced at his calendar and sighed. Only four days until retirement and so much still to do. Probable runaway. Most of them were. Why now ? Resignedly he gathered the required forms.
What a Day! by Ruchira Khanna
Paula is scrubbing the floor as she adjusts her hair behind her ear with the backside of her hand. She picks up the leftover plates, cups from the corners of the room and neatly tucks the decorations away.
Finally, she plops hard on the couch, and admires her room as she crosses her legs and taps them hard.
“Aha! The house is spick and span” she says in a soft tone.
Gets up to change, takes a detour to her kid’s room, which has toys lying on the floor. As she adjusts his blanket she whispers, “Happy Birthday, Leo”
The To-Do List by Amber Prince
I stared down at my to-do list, a lock of hair falling across my sweaty forehead. Only half of my list was completed and my muscles already screamed for me to wave the white flag in defeat. But I must go on, there were only 18 hours left until guests arrived.
If I ate dinner while vacuuming and cleaned the bathroom while I showered and dressed in the morning then that might save time. And energy.
Whose great idea was it to throw this party anyway? Oh right, mine.
I stretched my arms and snapped on my rubber gloves.
No Rest for the Wicked by Charli Mills
Sarah rubbed the small of her back with her knuckled fists. Slowly she hung her neck forward, then side to side. Glaring at the cauldron of dirty water, suds and shirts, she lifted the paddle to stir again.
“Need a back rub?” Bill Hickok swung a long leg up over the top railing of the horse pen and perched like a blonde crow. Even his buckskin pants and fringed shirt shimmered golden.
“No. Just taking a breather.”
“I hear Mary McCandless is working the spunk out of you. Come on, Sarah, take a break. Even idle hands get rest.”
Vampire on the Job by Sarah Brentyn
Cynthia stepped out the door with a smile. She skipped to her car. For once, she wasn’t dreading work.
Slipping on strappy pink sandals, she threw her sneakers on the seat and walked into the office.
“Good morning,” she beamed. “What a beau…”
Then she saw Amber.
Cynthia deflated. “I thought you were out today.”
“Nope!” Amber attacked Cynthia with anecdotes and questions. Another date, another mess. Paperwork problems. Computer issues. A date for tonight. How to work the coffee machine.
Cynthia dragged herself through the door. She plopped down with a pint of ice cream and a beer.
Sleep Deprived Flash Fiction by Susan Zutautas
As Joe was driving home in the wee hours of the morning, totally exhausted from working the past three weeks straight without a day of rest, he could not believe what he saw on the side of the road.
Was he hallucinating or was his mind playing tricks? He’d not had much sleep for the past week, and rubbing his eyes to try to get a clearer view wasn’t helping. Slowing his truck down, veering onto the shoulder to get a better look Joe could not believe it. Quickly he grabbed his rifle bringing his truck to a stop.
William of Charleston by Larry LaForge
William has had it. His dream job has gone sour. Getting through each day is pure drudgery.
He’s always taken pride in pulling his load at work, but now there’s no joy.
The historical port city has lost its charm. Quaint cobblestone streets, once a thing of beauty to him, are now just another occupational hazard.
Tour guides are more annoying than ever. William cringes when they misinform, but is not in a position to correct their embellished stories.
William fears he’s trapped in this dead end job. You see, he has no formal education.
Few carriage horses do.
(A 100-word version of this story is posted at Flash Fiction Magazine’s site for LarryLaForge100words.)
A Unicorn at School by Norah Colvin
‘Miss. Marnie has a toy in her bag.’
‘Uh-uh,’ I responded.
‘You’re not allowed to have toys at school,’ he insisted.
Trust him! Always dobbing.
‘Miss,’ he persisted, tugging my sleeve.
‘What is it?’ I sighed, dragging myself out of the confusion of marks and percentages that now seemed more important to telling a child’s story than their own words and actions.
I looked at the little fellow pleading for my attention. They were all so needy; so demanding; but time . . .
‘It’s a unicorn, Miss.’
‘Unicorn! Let’s see!’ I was back. A child in need!
Trials of a Unicorn, Part 2 by Anne Goodwin
He was hungry, thirsty and the pain spiked in his knees with every footfall, but he dared not stop. Nor would he look back to the place he’d thought was home. He pressed forward through the alien landscape: the grey rocks shaped like goblins; the pale vegetation that knifed his lips when he bent to eat.
When he saw the shimmering water, he thought his brain was playing tricks with him. But he couldn’t deny the graceful creatures lowering their heads to drink. Would they make space for him among them? Would they shun him and his single horn?
The Tears of Gods by Geoff Le Pard
Mary rubbed her back. Packing her father’s belongings took forever.
‘Are you tired, Mum?’
Mary forced a smile. ‘Exhausted.’
‘Dad said you need rest.’
‘Maybe a walk. Later. When the rain stops.’
‘Does it rain in heaven, Mum?’
‘I don’t know.’ Was there heaven? She hoped so.
‘Will Grandpa Peter get wet?’
‘He wouldn’t mind.’
‘He’d use it to get out of chores and go fishing.’ She glanced up at the hunkering clouds. ‘Eh, Dad?’
Peter looked down and nodded. Too right. ‘Milton. There.’
The dog-cum-unicorn leapt in the water, horn to the fore, and speared the salmon.
Time Enough by Lisa Reiter
Looking into the slightly desperate amber eyes, she did her best to swallow some porridge.
“Is it ok, Grandma?”
“It’s delicious, love. I’ve just had enough.”
“Can I get you anything? Are you comfortable?”
“I’m fine” She sighed, “Just pop the telly on before you leave.”
“I thought I might stay with you today.”
“Oh, Alice, there’s really no need. I shan’t get up to much!”
“I know, I just feel.. I’m worried about you. Should I call Dr.Graham?”
“No! Whatever for? There’s nothing wrong.”
At 96, she was just tired, tired of living and she’d had enough.
New challenge posted every Wednesday on Carrot Ranch Communications. All writers welcome!