Shuddering, Stephen lifts the third bottle of banana-flavored barium contrast to his lips. Chills form over his arms and his eyes water as he fights down a few more swallows.  His desk line rings, saving him from more of the concoction.

“This is Stephen.”

A click sounds and an automated message begins. “This St Andrews Medical Center. Please remember to arrive…”

Stephen disconnects and glances at the 20-year anniversary clock on his desk.  3 hours until his appointment.  The intercom buzzes.  Judy’s newly-employed-and-still-uncertain voice breaks the quiet.

“Mr. Holin?”

Stephen makes himself smile.  “Yes, Judy?”

“Er, there is a woman here to see you. She doesn’t have an appointment.”

“Who is it, Judy?” Stephen forces a gentle tone. He hears a terse exchange in the background and recognizes his visitor.


“Yes, Mr. Holin, I’m sorry, sir!”

“Calm down. Take a deep breath and escort my mother up, please.”

“Immediately, sir!”

Stephen turns back to the barium and forces down a few more swallows.  He tucks the bottle in the lower drawer; he can only cope with one difficult substance at a time.

He settles into the cool leather of the wingback chair and folds his hands over the documents on his desk, careful not to smear his still wet signature.  Next to the dark walnut door, a painting of the McArthur River draws his gaze. It’s his happy place.  He thinks of the hidden cove, of catching his ancient arch nemesis, of cradling the huge Barramundi just beneath the surface as it recovered from the fight.  He smiles as he thinks of the beast splashing him and his dad as it bolted away and the vivid sparkle in his father’s eyes.  The painting was his dad’s last and lasting gift before cancer took him.

Judy’s light tap on the door is followed by his mother’s exasperated rush past his flustered assistant. The woman floods his office with dramatic energy accompanied by the flourish of her cashmere coat and punctuated by handing Judy a limp, hatted and costumed pug with drool dripping from its jowls.

“Really, Stephen. She should know me!” His mother snatches a family photo from the credenza, pushes it into the girl’s arms, and closes the door.

His mother sweeps to his side, kisses his forehead and makes a show of removing her gloves. 

Stephen takes her hand and softly kisses her manicured fingers.

“Hello, Mother. Isn’t it brunch-at-the-club day? I’m surprised you are here.”

“It is! I’m doomed to be late. Angela told me she saw you picking up at the chemist. I’ve been positively frantic. Why couldn’t you return my calls? Instead, I had to brave this horrid mid-week traffic to come in person. Now, what is going on, Stephen?”

Stephen glances at his mother then to the papers on his desk.  He slides the newly drafted Living Will document into her line of sight.  

“Mother, we do need to talk.”  He holds her hand tightly and feels her become deathly still.

—- —- —- The End —- —- —-

Legacy was written for the AWC Flash Fiction Sept 2019 Challenge. It was not listed for that competition. The prompts we were provided:

  • Each story had to include the name of at least ONE element from the periodic table.
  • Each story’s first and last words had to begin with S.
  • Each story had to contain the words TRAFFIC, JOWLS and HIDDEN.
  • And finally, each story had to include something that BUZZES.