Flash fiction by Andrew Tolve
In the momentary pause between the tug of his finger and the discharge of the bullet, Phil's face jerked sideways and up, causing the gun to slip from the clench of his teeth to the ledge of his jaw. Two hikers found him five minutes later, drawn to his location in the trees by a crack so loud they had ducked on the trail. He lay motionless on the ground, the hood of the tent and two poles crumpled beneath him.
In the flight for life copter, the EMTs stabilized his heart. At the hospital, the doctors reconstructed his jaw. His wife arrived before he regained consciousness. When he finally came to she cried and cried.
At home, the searing pain and the white flashes were first to go, then the daily dressings, then the months of rehab, until all that remained was a wide and jagged scar that ran from the right-hand corner of his mouth to the bottom of his ear.
Phil didn't mind. His once unbearable depression — that grim downward spiral that had seemed so irreversible at the time: each day more monotonous, his wife, his job, his home, his car, the clean white numbers on the dashboard flicking to 7:54 P.M. as he pulled into the driveway, or 7:53 on a good night — was gone.
He found a new job that he actually liked and a renewed passion for his wife. Their first child was a boy, their second a girl. With his son he played little tank, big tank, and baseball on the back lawn. With his daughter he colored ponies, bought her a Barbie house and a new Barbie each week.
When either lost a tooth, he was the one to slide the quarter under the pillow.
And when they asked about the scar — Does it hurt, daddy? It has to hurt. How can that not hurt? — he assured them that it didn’t, not one bit. And their eyes got big as saucers, certain he was the strongest dad in the world.