Flash Fiction
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I squint, unable to make out
the figure at the bar. But only
one person has ever called me

“Mrs. O’Connell?”

“What’s left of her. Come here
to me, boy.”

She leaps up and grabs me.

“Let me look at you. The big
doctor man has returned. Don’t
just stand there, Bobo, give him
a beer.”

“No, no,” I say, stepping back.
“I just came in for . . . change.”

“Nonsense. A Budweiser and a
Jameson for us both.”

“Who’s paying?” Bobo wants to

“I’ll get it,” I say.

“It’s on the doctor, sure.”

“I’m not a doctor. I just finished
my first year of med school.”

“Then let’s celebrate so.”

“Tab?” Bobo asks when he’s slid
the beer and shots in front of
us. I shake my head.

“Ah, go on. Run a wee tab.”

“I only have time for a quick

“Then cheers, big ears!”


We knock back our shots.

“That’s grand. You’ll have a
beer or two with your old friend,
sure you will.”

“I really can’t, Mrs. O.”

“You can, of course. Bobo, two
more shots and a wee pitcher of

After a few more sips, she says,
“So, are you shocked altogether
at the state of me?”

“Of course not.”

But I am. The woman beside
me looks like the wizened,
deranged grandmother of the
Mrs. O I hold in my head. But
the most striking change is the
Lucky Charms leprechaun way
she’s speaking. When I was a
kid, she did all she could to hide
her Irishness. Except, to my
chagrin, calling me Paddy.

“How’s Tom?” I ask. “Is he
still . . . in that band?”

“Oh aye. Sure, Bobo buys his
drugs from my Tommy, don’t
you, love?”

“You know I’m clean,” Bobo

“Then here’s to a better man
than us.”

I clink her mug. A few more
swigs and I’ll be out of here.

“You and Tommy were always
the great friends, weren’t ye?”

“I guess we’ve lost touch. How’s
Mr. O’Connell?”

“I’m a single girl again, Paddy,”
she says, waving the back of
her ringless left hand. “So go
ahead and buy us a drink.
Bobo! Two more Jamesons!”

I refill Mrs. O’s mug and then,
reluctantly, my own. We down
our new shots.

“Well, now that you’ve got me
menfolk out of the way,” she
says, digging in her sweatpant
pockets, “it’s Eileen you’ll be
wanting to hear about. Have a

From a zebra-striped wallet, she
withdraws a small picture.

“Cute,” I say and hand it back.

“Jack and Jill, would you believe
she called them? Her husband’s
a lawyer. They live in Potomac.”

“Not on a hill, I hope.”

“Funny boy. Still carrying the


“Ah well, ’tis all whiskey under
the bridge, am I right? Come
here to me, doctor, I want to
show you something.”

She thrusts her right arm out on
the slick bar, sending a mug
spinning. I steady it, then grip
her wrist and push up her
overcoat sleeve. A gash runs
across her lower arm, scabbing
at the edges, with grime and
pebbles still clinging to the
moist inner wound.

“You should get this cleaned
and bandaged right away,” I
say. “I have a first aid kit out in
my car. You wait here. I’ll be
right back.”

“I will, love.”

Dizzy from the whiskey and the
afternoon glare, I need two tries
to get my key in the ignition.
Before I can reach the seatbelt
strap, Mrs. O is pounding on the
window, her hands smudging
the glass with brown splotches.

“I know what you and Tommy
did in the basement!” she
screams, her voice slightly

She clutches at the door handle
and the door cracks open. I
yank it back shut and hit the
lock button. As she totters for
balance, I put the car in re-
verse, back out and get it
pointed towards the parking lot
exit. She jumps in front of me,
bangs on the hood.

“And as for you and Eileen—“

I lean on my horn, and she
staggers backwards. I wrench
the wheel sideways and veer
around her, off a curb and into
the street. Soon her screams
are out of earshot. But oh how
she would cackle to know I’ve
just quit med school and come
back home. To the past that
tricked me into leaving in the
first place, when it too is rife
with mystifying ailments I can
never bring myself to treat.

Xavier McCaffrey is a writer living in Chicago. He
is the winner of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story
Prize, and his work has appeared in places
including Antietam Review, Potomac Review and
by Xavier McCaffrey