Mise-en-scène by Karen Schauber

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My brain has been injured and is not working properly. I appear to be asleep, dead even… but of course, I’m right here. Hovering. The frenzy, shouts, rushing… all for what—I’m not coming back. I begin to relax, breathe, take in my surroundings. Roger is looking numb, whitewashed, catatonic even. He’s taken up space in another world. Not mine… I can’t get him to notice me. Per usual, he won’t react.

Lettuce-coloured walls need washing. The TV is stuck on Jeopardy. And the nurses are wearing shoes that squelch on the over-polished floor. I can see they’re about to pull the plug, but I don’t say anything; it’s not my way. Wires and tubes fill and connect me to and from beeping machines. Monitor readings sputter and gasp…skidding flat. My sister is looking bereft, her head bobbing, lips quivering. She wasn’t so nice yesterday. Probably regretting her off-colour remark about my looking gaunt. Not so terrible in the scheme of things. But soon she will ruminate on her horrid deceit. She doesn’t think I know. The ugly truth always comes out. Roger spilled the beans. His big apology… ‘it was an accident. It didn’t mean a thing. It will never happen again’… And I don’t think it ever did. But my sister never did fess up. And that I could not forgive. 

He’s going to be miserable without me. Lost really. For a while. He’ll find his way, in time. It’s my only regret really, not being there for him, with him; through this. I know what he needs, how to reach him. But that’s not going to happen. Maybe I should begin thinking about where I’m going. I’ve never given it much thought. Probably now is a good time.

I watch my sister slink over to Roger, sidle up against his chest. He’s slow to respond, but takes her hand in his. So warm, caring, close. My heart sinks, as my lifeline is wrenched free.


Karen Schauber’s work appears in fifty international literary magazines, journals and anthologies, including Bending Genres, Cabinet of Heed, Cease Cows, Ekphrastic Review, Fiction Southeast, New Flash Fiction Review, Spelk; and a ‘Best Microfiction’ nomination. ‘The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings’ (Heritage House, 2019), her first editorial/curatorial flash fiction anthology, achieved ‘Silver’ in 2020 in The Miramichi Reader’s ‘Very Best Book Award” for Short Fiction. Schauber curates Vancouver Flash Fiction, an online resource hub, and in her spare time is a seasoned family therapist.

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