about the author

Nicholas Olson earned his BA at Columbia College Chicago. A triple finalist in the 2013 Written Image Screenwriting Competition, he currently lives in Chicago where he’s writing a novel and wrangling a cat. He has work published or forthcoming in Thrice Fiction, Eunoia Review, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Oblong, Foliate Oak, Every Day Fiction, The Open End, and Flash Fiction Magazine. He can be stalked at nicksfics.com.

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It’ll Be Different for Everyone

Nicholas Olson

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It might come on public transit, in an old man’s face, teeth gone, holding his government phone like plate glass, waiting for the call, seeing if she has more time, in his bag snacks he can sneak her when the RNs aren’t looking, pack of smokes for same, a receipt listing these things, he can read it as the bus navigates Chicago potholes, pox of sickness on a bubonic face, cobblestone underneath that horses once trotted on, and the ride he took her on, through Grant Park, silver anniversary, fog erasing itself on the blackboard of pine, spruce, elm, becoming their love, the breath that escaped the horses’ muzzles, when she had a mind, before she’d scoop the dandelions into her arms and coo at them, before she’d cry at the piano her fingers once knew, notes fading into page’s white, all blank, a tabula rasa, or else a palimpsest instead, these thoughts she’d say, the worms in my head, when she could still talk about them at all, when she’d drop her teacups in the yard and he’d pick them all up, stop her from biting the fence, scoop her up and carry her away when he still had the strength, and she’d whisper I’m slipping away, just like that, he nearly dropped her the first time she said it, her eyes like a newborn’s, unfocused, tilt-shifting perspective, rack focus, like how he’d film her on his Bolex, little pictures he’d call them, Richard’s little pictures, she starred in every one, silent queen of the tiny silver screen, camera obscura, chiaroscuro, mise en scène, he’d whisper his notes to her before bed, she’d doze off at neorealism, or oeuvre, or propaganda film, and he’d capture her in the frame, celluloid he’d never share, not even with her, it was all his, in a little shoebox that went with them through every three flat, townhouse, studio, kept away from the light, he’d watch the way it flickered on his wall when the work wouldn’t come, in a room with no furniture, it’s been pawned, the baby needs food, there’s a war on haven’t you heard, he’s off to beat the Krauts, in the blackboard of the Ardennes, chalk swipes, men erased, and he’d snap a still of each dogtag, find the frame, cut it with the man’s KA-BAR, send it home, least he could do, keeping his own tag, for now, exhaling fog, oughta supply it for those monster pictures, ambush in the night, butt of an MG42 to the teeth, more chalk to spill, lights out, he’s back, R&R, Ellie providing her own lighting, little boy not so little no more, Richard trying to teach him daddy, or even dada, and the camera grows with them, now an Arriflex, 16 mil, tones of gray giving way to color, writing copy in the city, developing film in the lunchroom on break, his boy stretching the frame he’s so big now, going into high school, squeaking by with Cs, but graduating, walking, and his name’s called, and drafted, there’s a war on haven’t you heard, seeing his cadet through the cloudy bubble world of tears, something in my eye, letters smudged with the contents of MREs, shots he’d taken of Vietnamese landscapes, composition sound, a quick learner, gets it from his daddy, or dada, stream of letters dwindling to a trickle, then nothing at all, then a visit from crisp suits, no sound, there’s no sound anywhere at all, must be a silent picture, Ellie’s on her knees, the silent queen, and there’s a lovely dedication in the paper, and a medal, and some personal effects, and a thank you for every sorry, and minutes that jab like needles, and the films are on the floor, unspooling, and it’s a hot day out, need a drink, just like the taste, and it’s a cold day out, need a drink, warms the belly, and the work’s gone, no more copy, letters are sent, eyes scanning replies for “unfortunately,” always finding it, don’t need to eat today, or tomorrow, and it’s not assistance, think of it as cashing out, you paid into the system all your life, and there’s a position available, no shame in it, it’s in a theater, tearing tickets, with coworkers who could be his grandkids, their war held not in the forest or the jungle but in the desert, and the bubble’s growing, too big to pop, but there it goes, and with it the diagnosis, and the thoughts scrubbed away, blank stares at programs on hospital TV, times he’d hold her hand and squeeze but she wouldn’t squeeze back, would watch her program, until this day, on public transit, en route, staring at the government phone, illicit materials in his bag, and something else, the Bolex, same one, at the bottom, weighing it down, and she’s there, but barely, and he’s winding it, preparing, holding her hand, seeing her eyes, does she see his, pulling her in at twenty-four a second, she could almost be sleeping, the silent queen, one last squeeze, and the wait, the wait, the weight, and then. And then:

A squeeze.

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