Moratorium on Life

F3, Cycle 99: Fortune or Misfortune?

Prompt:  Tell us a story about a character facing the end of something–a job, a relationship, their sanity…  What is actually ending can be whatever your imagination dreams up, but also let us know how it turns out for him or her.  Give us some type of ending (pun intended).

Genre:  Whatever lights your fire.

Word Limit:  1,500 words.

A Moratorium on Life 

He couldn’t stop thinking about what the gypsy had told him. Death. The tarot card “Death” had kept popping up. It didn’t matter which way you shuffled, cut or split the deck, the outcome was always the same. 

“The card doesn’t necessarily mean physical death,” she explained. “What it usually symbolizes is a loss of something–a transition–an ending.”

If he’d only known just how ‘death’ would find him.

He’d never taken that sort of thing seriously. But now, sitting on the bunk in the cell he had to admit – she had seen it coming. Well, maybe she hadn’t seen this exactly. But she knew something was coming.

‘Death’ usually meant a box. One of wood with a nice veneer, which makes no sense since it’s only going to be covered with dirt. Cushions on the inside to keep you comfortable for eternity. Or a smaller one filled with the ashes of what you once were. Dust to dust; back to the earth. Until you were interred in an overpriced urn.

No. His ‘death’ found him in a box of concrete. Cinderblocks surrounded him. There was one window; he wasn’t sure which direction it opened to. Was it north or West? One of those two. But all he could see were trees and an A/C unit through the glass and wire mesh. He could see a few stars, but not enough to identify which direction the window looked out upon.

Then he had a big glass door that opened to a well-lit hallway. In the morning they would wheel a cart with a TV on it in front of the door. After they slid the tray for breakfast he would be allowed to watch several hours of broadcast news. Then there would be several hours of judge shows after lunch.

Yeah, this was death all right.

He was dead and in his box. But instead of being dressed in his best suit he was wearing an orange jumpsuit. It was great to have to take your shirt off and slide it down your legs when you had to take a dump.

People died all the time from dope, but usually they weren’t sent to purgatory.

That’s what this was. It made him wonder why the gypsy fortune teller had been so spooked. Obviously she hadn’t had a vision of hell in the tarot deck. He was just somewhere waiting. Waiting for sentencing. He imagined it was like what happened when you died. You went in front of a judge and pled your case. But the judge already knew what your sentence was.

4 grams of heroin. He was pretty sure that was a 4th or 5th degree felony, which meant 6-18 months.

Felony. That meant he wouldn’t be in a cushy little city jail like this with a room all to himself. That meant prison. He didn’t like the thought of that.

So yes, in a way he was dead. He wouldn’t be doing a lot of things for a while. He’d be eating and sleeping and shitting in a big brick building with a bunch of criminals. No ladies, no parties, no weekend visits from his kids.

It would be a short death at least. Considerably shorter than eternity any way you looked at it. Maybe it could just be called a moratorium on life.

But then what about when he got out? Would the bank hold his job for that long? Would they want him back? Would anyone want a convicted heroin addict as a financial consultant? He doubted it. He supposed it was probably time he started looking into other lines of work. Maybe he could be a garbage collector.

That would be a step up from what he was now. Now he was just garbage.

Maybe they’d go light on him. Maybe he’d be sent to a rehab. That would be good. He didn’t think he was an addict. It was only a weekend thing with him. He just liked to party on Friday and Saturday nights. He’d grab a few friends and hookers and head to a motel room. He was just looking for good times. He never hurt anybody because of it. He never sold it. He only snorted it, he never shot it.

Yet it had still killed him. He had still gotten caught. And now here he was on his death-bunk. Waiting for them to close the lid and put him in the dirt.

The damn gypsy. If only she’d been more specific. Maybe he’d have known what to stay away from. He should have known to stay away from it though. There was never a good way to end a heroin addiction. He would have either ended up dead on the floor in that motel room.

Or here.

In a way it was good that he ended up here. He was still in a lot of trouble. His life would be changing. He’d be losing his job, his money and his status. Yes, this was a loss of something–a transition. This was an ending.

Soon his ex-wife would bring the kids buy to see him and say goodbye. His parents might show up and his mother would cry. Maybe a few of his friends would write to him to say that he got a raw deal and the system was fucked.

And then they would close the lid and the judge would through the first shovelful of dirt over him.


About Zack

Associate Degree. Music Lover. Blogger.
This entry was posted in Fiction, Flash Fiction Friday, Horror, Literary, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Moratorium on Life

  1. Rose Green says:

    Nice reflective piece. Hindsight is a wonderful thing – it allows us to review what’s happened and point to the moment when we could have changed things. He’s clearly taking a realistic view – the likely ways that his friends and family will behave before they metaphorically close the lid on him. He seems quite resigned to that, somehow. I like the fact that he’s already making plans for what he’ll do when he gets out.

  2. Lewis Peters says:

    Nicely done. Reading this was like peeling an onion, each layer revealing a little more of the subject’s predicament and why he is in it. Liked the way you avoided sentiment or judgment and leaving it to the reader to decide whether to feel sorry for him.

  3. Mike Young says:

    He talks about why he’s there, but seems in denial about it, gypsies fault, judges fault. Not admitting he’s buried himself in there.

  4. Pingback: F3, Cycle 99: Fortune or Misfortune? The Stories | Flash Fiction Friday

  5. Joyce Juzwik says:

    I really enjoyed the matter-of-fact narrative here. As has been previously said, no judgments expressed, no lesson in morality; just this is what happened and this is how it ended up. The gypsy’s cards foretold Death, and Death can occur in many ways. He has certainly acknowledged his, since his life as he knew it before is over. He’s quite resigned to his situation and his future, or lack thereof. In a twisted sort of way, you have to hope he comes out okay…

  6. zbaer83 says:

    Thanks for all the great comments. It’s always a treat to hear from somebody who read something that I didn’t mean to put in there. It makes me feel ‘deep’ and ‘insightful.’

  7. Carol says:

    I like how he tells his story so truthfully, at least from his point of view. He doesn’t seem to be harboring any delusions that he’ll be able to just go back to his old life. Somehow I don’t think his friends would ever actually write.

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