Today we present the third place story in our Flash Fiction Contest, “The Wheelchair,” by Mahreen Sohail. In this somber piece, a young woman deals with her father’s sickness by placing herself in his wheelchair for a few minutes in a grocery store. The result is a touching examination of perspective and pity, and how we treat the sick. Enjoy this wonderful piece of flash fiction by a talented new writer.
“When she cried her face swelled like a watermelon and her eyes became like seeds she could spit out. It was the saddest thing you ever saw except for my father dying.”
We bought the wheelchair first, my mother, my brother and I. We took our father to the grocery store. He asked us to stop near the tubs of pickled garlic, pickled mango, pickled chili, pickled olives. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be pickled he said, face laughing and cracked like a prune. This was the time after we were visited by the lady who said she knew a ghost and the ghost declared our father wasn’t sick. What a day that was. We were all in high spirits.
My father asked, Could this turn into a miracle story, and we didn’t have the heart to say No, though of course our hearts were screaming, No. We were living with our aunt whose house was close to all the hospitals. We were so sad in her house. Every day, I wore the same clothes.
My father wafted in and out of sleep. He waved his hands in the air, his fingers twirled above his head. We thought, He’s speaking to the ghost. We woke him up all the time. We were afraid he would offend the ghost and the ghost would take away his good diagnosis.
My father couldn’t go to the toilet on his own. He had to be helped on and off the seat. He took medicine all the time, for iron, for blood, to stop the pain. What a way to make the human body function. What a way to be sad. Some days he looked closely at his hand and at all the white pills in it and asked, What is all this powder? We spoke to him like he was a child. Every day I cried and cried and sometimes my mother tried to stop me and sometimes she gave in. When she cried her face swelled like a watermelon and her eyes became like seeds she could spit out. It was the saddest thing you ever saw except for my father dying.