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During the summer of 2016 we’re bringing back our flash fiction prompt series, inviting authors to respond to three different picture prompts. You can read more about the series here. Round 1 submissions responded to the photo prompt found here.
Round 1 finalist: “20 Million Minutes in Welcome” by Rich Fahle
Mother’s sick again. Worse than that time 2 years ago. I have to take her to the hospital in Fairmont today. The clinic in Welcome can’t help her, they told me.
I’m going to have to ask to borrow the wheelchair again from Aggie Larsen to get her to the car, assuming Ethan can do without it just for today. I can’t carry her all the way to the car anymore. As it is, it’s going to be hard enough just getting her to the front door from the bed.
It takes a while in the morning for mother’s eyes to start working right enough to recognize me and Chester the cat. She wet the bad the last three nights. I don’t know what to do about that. She didn’t eat yesterday. I can tell it’s worse than last time.
She keeps forgetting where she is. Mother hasn’t set foot outside of the house in six months but every day I have to tell her we’re in the same place we’ve always been, the same house in Welcome, Minnesota she’s lived at for 42 years, me for almost 37 and three quarters.
I like doing math in my head while mother sleeps. I listen to her snoring over the radio news station and I take the number of years I’ve lived, then multiply it by days in a year and then by hours, then by minutes. So far, I’ve been alive for 453 months. That’s 13,793 days exactly, counting leap years. A lot of people forget the leap years. Then I figure out the hours. This morning when I counted it was 331,032 hours since I was born and 19,861,920 minutes.
In 38 hours and 23 minutes, I’ll be 20 million minutes old. That’s a lot of minutes. I told mother I wanted to have a 20 million minute birthday with her and Chester. I don’t think she remembers, though.
I do other math, too. At St. Paul United Church of Christ I count the 224 square tiles on the floor in the reception room while I scrub and wax it the way Rev. Wayne likes. I know the number of steps it takes exactly to get from my house on Hulseman Street over to Casey’s where I buy the cat food for Chester and mother’s chocolate which she’s not supposed to have but that I buy for her anyway because she loves it. It’s 684 steps to Casey’s, but I’ve made it in less steps than that a few times now.
Fairmount is 17 minutes away, or 15 minutes if you catch the light at Bixby Road. The lady at the clinic in Welcome said they’d probably have to keep mother overnight for tests or maybe even longer. I’m going to stay with her there until she can come home, or until they tell me to go home, I guess. But I’ll stay for at least 38 hours and 23 minutes. I’ll bring some chocolate for mother.
Rich Fahle is the Executive Producer of PBS Book View Now, providing national coverage of book festivals and other major literary events for PBS. He’s formerly VP Content and Entertainment for Borders, where he produced digital content with authors and musicians. Prior to Borders, Fahle oversaw media relations and communications as chief spokesperson for C-SPAN, the iconic public affairs network where he helped launch BookTV, and was a long-time manager and bookseller at Kramerbooks, the thriving independent bookstore in DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood. He is also the founder and CEO of Astral Road Media, a media marketing and distribution company focused on authors and writers. He volunteers as one of the organizers for the Midwest Literary Walk in Chelsea, Michigan. Contact Rich at email@example.com.