The Papers

By Carter Tachikawa

(Just another short story to occupy myself with. It's supposed to be this short cause it's flash fiction. Please forgive any spelling/grammar errors. I did my best to edit.)


The day that the papers came wasn't as bad as the day Colin first learned of the news. Lois, his wife, had told him not to complain when they arrived. He agreed with this idea and nothing could take it back. Especially not now. Still, in his mind, he kept dreading the day he would finally see the papers. Those papers pretty much sealed his future and, even though he knew what was in them, he didn't want to see it in writing.

They arrived on a Monday afternoon, only an hour before sunset. Colin contemplated whether or not to go outside and get the mail. A blizzard came through their city and left the entire town covered with snow and ice. Finally, he decided not to go out and stuck with the decision. He was about to tell Lois to stay put but he was too late. She went out into the snow and took the letters from the mailbox. With every step she made back towards the front door, Colin felt the lump in his throat slide down an inch.

He waited until she got inside, took off her coat and boots, and made her way to the kitchen table. As he watched her take off her winter things, he noticed how much she had changed. Her face had sunken in, her ribs was starting poke out of her shirt, and her lips had grown thin and white. Her auburn hair clung to her head in oily strings and the light in her eyes had burned out a long time ago. Still, Colin thought she was beautiful.

Lois gave him an apologetic smile. "They came."

Colin didn't bother looking at the mail in her hands. "The papers?"

"Yes. It was only a matter of time…" Her voice trailed off and ultimately she changed the subject. Dropping the letters on the table, she went to the stove. "Let me fix you a cup of tea and you can look over it"

"I don't want to look over it." Colin interrupted. He glared at those letters, the hatred in his soul pouring out over them. Lois sighed. This wasn't the first time her husband was reacting childish. When he first learned the news, he put on the same act. It was Lois who bought him back to common sense. Now she looked at him, with his graying hair and angry black eyes, ready to rip those papers to shreds. Nonetheless, Lois went over to the cupboard and took out some teabags. Then she set some water to boil while Colin continued to glare at the mail. More specifically, he was glaring at the papers. They were in the envelopes and he had no intention of taking them out. If Lois wanted him to look at them, she'd have to take them out and shove them in his face.

Lois finally gave up puttering around the kitchen and decided to confront her husband. "Look, you knew they were coming. Why are you being such a baby about it? Just sign the papers and everything will okay."

"No, it won't!" He snapped, pushing his chair and standing up so he could look down on Lois. His face twisted so he looked much older and more stressed out. "Signing a bunch of papers will not…" His voice trailed off and he sat back down. He looked at his hands. Even they seemed to have been riddled with old age and pain. Lois got up to take care of the tea. When she finished, she bought the two hot cups over to the table. Placing one cup in front of her husband, she reached over for the tin of biscuits on the table. She two biscuits for herself and three for her husband, placing them in his saucer. Colin would take quick sips of his tea and continue to give those papers a nasty look.

Lois couldn't take it anymore. She had to break this silence. His behavior was unbelievable and disgusting. He looked like he would explode into a temper tantrum. Enough was enough. Taking the envelope, she opened it up and spread the papers out in front of him. Then she took a pen and dropped it on the table.

"You have to sign it, Colin."

"No, I don't'!"

"Come on, don't be this way! The papers need to be signed…"

"I'm not putting my damn name on them, Lois!"

Lois pouted and threw her hands up in the air. "Oh, for crying out loud, it has to be done!"

"No, it doesn't! I'm not signing it!"

With that, Colin knocked over his teacup and the hot liquid spilled across the table. Lois shrieked and backed away, afraid of what her husband would do next. She hadn't expected this from him. He began throwing those papers around like confetti. He tossed the tin can of biscuits on the floor and began to rip the newspaper to shreds. Lois wanted to stay huddled in her corner forever but she couldn't. She afraid that he would hurt himself in the process. So she got up and grabbed him before he could attack something else.

"Colin, Colin, stop!" She screamed, trying to restrain him. And he stopped. Knowing she was on a roll, Lois continued. "Look, you don't have to sign those papers, okay? Don't sign them if you don't want to. Just stop this nonsense! Please!"

Colin's muscles relaxed and Lois let him go, her arms aching. His eyebrows twitched before he turned and looked at all those government papers lying on the floor. He knew that the people in Washington were waiting for an answer. But he wouldn't give them one. He had no reason to sign them.

"I won't sign it." He said again.

Lois nodded and sat back in her chair. "I know. I won't either." A tear escaped from her eye as she followed his gaze to the papers from the military and government.

"I'll never sign those damn things." Colin murmured.

"Neither will I." Lois agreed. "Let the army say anything they want. Let them tell their version of the war or ambush. It's a lie. It's all a lie." In a quivering voice, she finished off. "Our son is not dead."


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