Play With the Prose VII, Challenge 3: Beau

This week’s challenge was to write like yours truly. To wit, about a social work who travels through time in order to perform their job duties.

Fatima could hardly breathe.The Florida heat was oppressive today and Blackwood Cemetery had a stark shortage of foliage. Her mouth tasted like bile; she tried to spit, but couldn’t. Nolan’s family had already left. She doubted anyone noticed her presence. All the same, she didn’t want to seem disrespectful. She hated herself enough as it was. The gravestone beckoned to her like a gruesome roadside accident. The sun was getting hotter. She left.

*****

“I would like to apply for my time benefit, please.”

“Your name?” The gentleman behind the granite desk was either bored, dismissive, or both.

“Fatima Bronwyn.”

“Please fill out these forms, ma’am. Do you have the proper identifications?” He hadn’t even looked up yet.

“I do. And I want to go this afternoon.” That got his attention.

“Ma’am? May I remind you that this is a once in a lifetime benefit. There are no exceptions. The body can barely handle the stress of one trip.” He was looking directly at her now. “Are you absolutely sure this is the right time?”

*****

They always said going back in time was disorienting. But she never felt more aware of herself and her purpose in life than at this moment, one week ago.

“Have a nice life, Fatima. Bye,” Nolan said cheerfully.

This time she didn’t leave.

“Nolan, can I speak with you a little bit longer? I want to ask you something.” He sat back down in his chair. “I’m worried about you. Are you thinking about ending your life?”

Nolan opened up to her for the first time. She learned about the death of his wife, which he still blamed himself for. The sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his uncle. His pulling away from his family as the depression took over. His puppy Dawson joined the conversation after a while, an obvious comfort for Nolan. After an hour, he seemed more hopeful than ever.

“Nolan, I want to ask you how you were planning to kill yourself.”

He sighed, and opened up the end table drawer beside him. As she expected, a pistol was revealed.

“I really care about you and am glad you are feeling more hopeful. Would it be all right if I ask your sister to come over and take the gun home with her? Just to be safe?”

Nolan agreed.

*****

Though it was impossible, this day seemed even hotter than before. Blackwood Cemetery was no longer just a barren wasteland. It was a fucking recurring nightmare. Except this time, she was noticed.

“Fatima?”

It was Nolan’s sister. She averted her eyes.

“Thank you.”

“Um…” Fatima replied. She was caught off guard by a hug.

“You gave me one more night with my brother. I will always be grateful for that.”

Nolan’s sister smiled then turned to leave. Fatima exhaled. The air was breathable again. She headed towards the gravesite.

K: There’s nothing I can point to as a glaring flaw here, but it’s a fairly expected kind of story that goes where the reader knows it’s going. Decent prose, decent idea…it just didn’t offer a standout moment. I may underrate this one due to my expectation that Fatima was going to get just one more night out of it.

CW: This was emotional and moving in all the right ways. It seems that just one more night with a loved one is worth a one-time ever time travel. Fatima is truly selfless. Ultimately, there was nothing she could do for Nolan, but I liked her. – BRONZE

I like my idea, but it didn’t pack the punch I wanted. I was also up against some strong competition this week. My low score drops me down into a tie for 7th place, but it’s still early.

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