2022 minus 02: The river goes on

Posted: 30 December 2021 in 2022 minus, 2022 minus new fiction, fiction, new fiction, writing
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Well, here we are… the penultimate post of 2021, and the final piece of new fiction, written on the day, sparked by an image I came across by chance.


Quick check to confirm… yeah, this is the 25th piece of new fiction for the blog this year, one a week since July 2021 (I took three weeks off from the blog in October, to recharge.)

Twenty-five stories. That’s enough for a collected ebook, yes? Hmm, well, that’s an idea.

Anyways, for the last time this year, the introduction:

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ runs, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously.

And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain. So that, every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

And I carried on that practice through ‘2022 minus…’

Today’s story is based on an image I came across by chance… but instead of finding it on Unsplash, my usual practice, I’m using one that I took last year, but came across again this morning.

And so this week you get a story about a considerate man, considering… sparked by the following image.

The River Goes On

I had come home to die.

Oh, they’d dressed it up with fancy language and the doctors had told me again and again, reiterating repeatedly that the chances of the treatment working, though slight, were at least greater than zero. Which is what my chances of surviving this damned thing were without undergoing it.

I stand on the bridge I’d once cycled over, look away from the letter in my hand, and out across the river I’d once been afraid of. The depths look anything but frightening now; if anything, they look inviting.

But then so much looks different, seems different, since the diagnosis. The reactions from friends and family were expected, and had even felt stilted, practiced. They were neither, I knew, and know. At least, I think I know. But as a sometime television extra, watching professionals convincingly pretend for a living, it’s hard to tell what a real emotion is any more.

Especially when it’s your own. I mean, how are you supposed to react when you’re told you’re dying? I don’t think I dealt with it well. After all, it’s admittedly a strange experience, being told that your time on this earth is likely coming to an end. And that’s leaving to one side that whole Anger, Denial, Bargaining etc., thing everyone kept, and keeps, telling me about as if they’ve just discovered the process.

I’ve been going back and forth deciding whether I’m pleased the world will go on without me, that my friends and family will continue to be the lovable, infuriating, wonderful, exasperating crowd I’ve known.

But, honestly, I’ve no complaints. Nor should I have. I’ve lived a full life.


I’ve never really considered what that means before.

“A full life.”

Isn’t everyone’s life ‘full’ by the end, by definition? Full of something or other, of necessity? Full of fun, full of joy, full of love, full of wonder… or full of misery, full of pain, full of melodrama, full of… pain. Or full of some mixture of some or all of them.

But full, surely?

What they meant, what they mean, of course, is that I’ve somehow managed to tick off the boxes I’d been expected to fill: education, love, a career, more than one, and children, and grandchildren… and those I loved, and those I’ve lost.

In my case, as well, a modicum of short lived and unwanted fame, merely because I’d once been romantically involved with a minor celebrity.

A bird flies across my view, then lands without grace onto the water; small splashes erupt, the sounds gone in an instant, the ripples lasting longer and attracting my eye.

A grimace, involuntary. I’d thought it so sensible, so wise, to parlay my own moment of note into a business venture, helping others who found themselves thrust unwanted in the spotlight. Looking back, it hadn’t been wise, hadn’t been sensible, at all. And when it crashed, the fallout…

The sun emerges from behind a cloud, its light too bright, and I raise the sheet of paper in my hand to block it out; as I do so, I wince, this time from physical discomfort, a stabbing pain deep within to match the ache of the mental imagery the previous memory had provoked.

And, yes, to be fair, the embezzlement by my business partner hadn’t helped matters.

But that was long ago, so very long ago. I’d made good on the theft, so I’d earned some peace, hadn’t I? No, came the apparent answer.

I sigh. That’s all behind me, in time. As is the hospital in distance; about a mile. And what awaits me in that building brings a shiver to me, despite the warmth of the day.

I look at the letter again. It’s short, blunt and tells me what awaits me.

It’s hard to read.

Even now, it’s hard to understand, despite rereadings.

But then, she’s only four, and she doesn’t understand sentences yet. But there’s a picture of a cat, and her. And me. Apparently we all hold hands. Including the cat. There’s an invitation to come stay with them, forever.

And there are four, very carefully written, kisses.

I’d come home to die. Instead, I was going to live, with them.

As for the rest, it’d be worth it, for her.

I look out across the river one more time. It goes on. And so do I.

© Lee Barnett, 2021
See you tomorrow, with… something else, the very final something else of 2021.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 almost here.

Just dropping this in here, as I was asked: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.

I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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