May 4, 2021
Write a 1000 word flash fiction story that ends with the line: “That’s how a small cut in her finger led to the end of the world.”
April got up out of obligation. Lately, there wasn’t really a lot that motivated her to get out of bed other than the immense dread of having to deal with Joe if ever she decided to sleep in. He had to work, after all, and it was inconceivable for him that she could stay in bed even a minute longer than he did. She was to get up when he got up, and god help her if he got out from his shower and saw her lying there, checking her phone or staring at the roof. The breakfast wouldn't prepare itself. The kids weren’t going to wake themselves up—he had made sure of that. Part of the reason why he categorically refused to let them learn to do stuff on their own was to guarantee that she’d always have to be there to do it for them.
But she was tired, more than she had ever been. It could be the sleepless nights tending for her six-month-old, or the early mornings to get the kids out of bed and into their clothes on time to set up their computers and log them on to their classes. It could be the fact that she had had to agree to be demoted because she couldn’t find the time to make everything work so now, on top of the pay cut, she had to do twice the work if she wanted to keep her job at all. It might also be the fact that Joe wasn’t seeing any of that. In his head, she was at home, she was fine, it was him who had to drive the long distances, work the long hours. It was him who deserved a plate of warm food when he came home and no one bothering him while he drank a glass of cheap liquor in the studio. After such long hours, didn’t he deserve a quiet afternoon?
He would shout at her every time the kids bothered him. It was her fault that they didn’t know how to behave. Lockdown had turned them into wild animals, and since she was with them all the goddamn time, she should know better and teach them how to behave. She was doing something wrong, and he knew that as well. He didn’t know why she insisted on keeping that job instead of quitting altogether, until he understood that it was to justify her lack of involvement at home. An excuse for when she was too tired, a reason for all the headaches and muscle aches that she’d come up with every time he wanted to have sex.
Breakfast was the most important meal of the day, that was what mamá had always repeated while Joe was growing up when she woke up before dawn to make sure that breakfast was ready by the time he and papá came to the dining table. Because that was the right way, women wake up early while men sleep in. To Joe, it was out of the question that it could be the opposite. And April knew it as well. She had been to their pueblo, cooked tortillas with mamá en la cocina, woken early with her. In the beginning, she thought it was cute or even fun, a foreign yet interesting way to live one’s life. She had lived it like that for a couple of weeks, as one of those reality shows. She never imagined that that life would cease to be a game to become her reality.
Absolutely drained, April took a deep breath and stared at the kitchen island—at the eggs, tomatoes, onions, and peppers ready to be diced, the tortillas ready to be cooked. She started off with the peppers, one by one, then two, three pieces at the time, until she felt a sting in her index finger. When she looked down at the cutting board, she had a little gash and a little scarlet thread pouring out from it. She brought the finger to her mouth like she’d always do when something like this happened, not that it did that frequently. But then, the taste of her own blood brought a moment of realization—the life she was living tasted like death.
Before he could come and see what a mess she had made, the trail of blood on the cutting board, almost touching what would become his breakfast, she rushed to the bathroom. Aren’t always the best surprises those that you don’t get to give but that you receive instead? When he turned around, she stabbed him right above his belly button and the feeling of the knife cutting through his flesh reminded her of that nochebuena she had helped her abuelo skin a whole pig. He had told her to stab the dead animal just once, for fun, para que veas como se siente. And she had, and it was weird and satisfying at the same time, almost like now.
His eyes showed a glimpse of shock, but also intense disdain. He hated her, she knew it, and he hated him, too. The thing with strong passions is that they burn so bright, that no one can see when they change directions—they couldn’t either. He tried to reach for the knife, but she managed to avoid his hand and plunged it in a second time, then a third, then a fourth, and a fifth, until there was enough blood on her face to blur her vision. She let the water run for a moment, as the blood gushed out of his mouth. She thought of her kids, sleeping peacefully on the other side of the house, waiting somehow for their mommy to come to wake them up. And then she realized that, since they had always relied on her to wake them up, nothing would happen if, for one day, she decided to just make them sleep in.
That’s how a small cut in her finger led to the end of the world.