Ice: A flash fiction homage to pneumonia and the unreliable narrator

yves trevedy

I’m not really sure if I’m here.

Every so often, someone comes into the room.  The person always says, “how are you doing, Mr. ______.”  I usually say, “I’m not really sure if I’m here.” Not once have I gotten a reasonable response to this.  Sometimes the other person seems to ignore the question altogether, so you can see where this would be extremely unhelpful in determining whether I’m really here, or not.  Sometimes the other person gives a faint, indecipherable smile while they go about their business.  They examine the machines that surround me.  They make notes – sometimes on a computer they roll in and out of the room with them, sometimes on a little scrap of paper, once in a while on their wrist or hand or some other part of their own body.

Frequently the other person says, “I’d say you’re getting better.”  I used to ask: “Better than what?”  I had no idea what standard of comparison the person was using, and the statement confused me a great deal.  Once again, I never got a response that I could make any use of, so I thought it best to stop asking.  The people seemed quite well-meaning, and very dedicated to their various tasks as they moved around my room.  Sometimes I wondered if it was the tasks themselves, or the movements associated with those tasks, that were supposed to be helpful to me.  Perhaps it was a carefully choreographed dance, an incantation, perhaps designed to allow for my return, if I was, in fact, gone somewhere in the first place.

laurits Tuxen

Before the person leaves my room, they invariably grab a device that looks like an exceptionally outdated remote control and place it directly in my hand.  “Press the button if you need anything.”  I nod.  I am pretty sure that I nod.  “The button,” the person says, pointing to a bright red circle in the middle of the outdated remote.  I lay the remote right next to my hand and contemplate what I might need, in the future, so I could push the button and summon the people.  I’m not sure if they’re disappointed in me for not thinking of something.  I’ll try to work on this.

I’m very high up.  In a bed.  I am so high up that the floor seems miles away.  I can have as many pillows as I want, and they are the fluffy but firm ones that are just the way I like them.  They blankets are laughably thin, but I can have as many of these as I want, also.  I think this is a memory: I was shaking with chills, shaking way up high in my bed miles above the floor, and some people brought me blankets that had been warmed up.  They wrapped one entire blanket around my feet, and a second one around my torso, and a third they used to wrap me all the way up to my chin, making me into a mummy.

There are always two pitchers of ice cold water within my reach.  They are always completely full to the top, and the ice never melts.  The ice is the very best part.  People come and go from the room.  I don’t know where they go, because I don’t know what’s on the other side of the door to my room.  I don’t know for sure that they continue to exist.  But there are always the perfectly-formed, small, rectangular ice cubes.  They are immensely satisfying to crunch.  My hand gets colder and colder with each handful of ice that I take from the pitcher, and my mouth gets colder and colder as I crunch.  It is at these times that I most believe that I may be real.


Paintings, top to bottom: Yves Trevedy, Laurits Tuxen, Rembrandt