Flash Fiction: Crossing the river alone


Yesterday I asked the fat nurse to describe the view.

‘A river,’ she said, her big hands moving confidently as she changed my dressings. There was no disgust in her face, although even I can smell my decaying self, my rotting body.

‘And on the opposite bank,’ she said, ‘are two yellow chairs. What d’ya say we break out of here and go and have a nice sit down?’

Today it was a new nurse, thin. I imagined her fat colleague, weighing down one yellow chair, waiting. But I didn’t ask her to look. I don’t want to know that both chairs are empty.


This is a Friday Fictioneers 100-word (or so) short story based on the picture provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and written about by writers all over the world.


This week WordPress interviewed me about my writing, and included a big mention for the wonderful Friday Fictioneers. Read the piece here.



56 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Crossing the river alone

  1. I love what was not really told… about the sickness, the decay. Still a little bit mysterious to me… the two chairs takes a symbolic meaning I cannot quite decode… and it had me thinking, reading it over and over which is a good thing


  2. I didn’t really get the significance of two empty chairs, but I always enjoy reading your stories. I got a really good sense of the personality of the ‘fat nurse’ from a few words.


  3. I didn’t get the styx and dieing, but the loneliness and imagining someone to be there, and care. It’s a wonderful story, and congrats on the interview, it’s a great read.


  4. I read it differently. I read it that the other side of the river was a place of life she would never get to now, the yellow chairs a comfortable fantasy of escape. Of course, once we’ve written our stories they don’t belong to us any more, but to the reader, and there are as many stories as there are readers


  5. That last line was was so poignant and really well delivered. Regardless of how confident you may be in your religion or beliefs, the fact that the end of your life is a journey you ultimately have to make on your own makes it a terrifying prospect. This fear was palpable in the text yet went unspoken between the nurse and the patient. Brilliant!


  6. The usual bravos to you, Claire, for writing an extraordinary tale from the prompt. Yes, at first I was mystified, but I get it now and I see how rich in thought it is.


  7. Beautiful and moving. The image of the two yellow chairs felt like such comfort to me against the picture of the narrator’s rotting body, and the sense of loneliness that sweeps in at the end. The nurse’s description of the chairs and the offer to sit with the woman felt like such a gift. I wouldn’t want to ask either, whether the chairs were there, whether the chairs were empty or full—the image and the offer felt so bright and kind, I think I would hold onto those instead. Thank you, Claire.
    (I noticed there was some discussion about what your thoughts and intentions were with this piece, and I quickly skipped to the end to add my comment before my initial interpretation changed! The comments and your responses are fascinating. Thank you.)


    • It is always difficult when you come to read one of these pieces after other people have and to try and avoid the discussion before you make your own mind up. I’m so pleased you felt all those things from this piece.


  8. This view seems to have evoked thoughts of moving on for a lot of us. My guy wanted to go as well. Love that you spotted the yellow chairs – it made me look closer at the picture.


  9. I was fascinated by the ‘fat nurse’ and the ‘thin nurse’. They’re both so intriguing. The symbolic yellow chairs work powerfully and suggestively. Death or recovery? I love this kind of ambiguity. Her loneliness and need are strongly drawn.


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