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  • Writer's pictureLammergeier Staff

Three Flashes | Madeline Graham


The doctor is standing in my bright blue bedroom pursing her lips as if I’ve been bed bound for years and she’s the one who’s got to tell me I am dying, that my organs have fallen into disarray to disrepair into despair and I’ve but moments left to live.

“You swallowed a bomb,” she’s explaining to me as if I don’t know, “We’ve revived you for now but we can’t be too sure…”

“I swallowed more,” I tell her but she knows, she is nodding she knows, and I open my mouth to ask when she rips her shirt down the buttons and shows me the scars that litter her chest from where her sternum gave out and her ribs buckled from pressure, of course we know what you did, we all do it at some point, it’s part of the living, the dying is part of the living, the second wave’s coming and I’m afraid it will hurt.

“Was there blood on the floor?” I ask with a grimace, and she nods her head, I’m sorry there was, it’s a terminal case, nothing to be done, and she buttons her shirt and hides all her scars and her face is so flat, it is going to hurt I am sorry my dear the second wave’s coming and it’s going to hurt, I did it to myself no darling you didn’t, of course you didn’t, what would you do if my face melted off.

“How long do I have?” I don’t look at her, but still I see her and she’s shaking her head, we can’t know that can we only God can say, there isn’t a God but I am your God, you are my God and I am your God, are you sure you don’t want me to kill you with a rock. 

Brace yourself, she tells me she’s felt it a moment too soon, a moment before, and she is a good doctor, I think, a good doctor but a terrible God. The machine that is beating my heart explodes in electrical flames and she smiles kindly, for to live is to die and to die is to live.


It is a freezing day in summer and the middle of the night and we are going to New York.

The sun sets so much later now than in February and up is better than down so here we are on 95 North and I am driving and she is fumbling with my CDs and screaming and I am screaming too and I am yelling at the big black shape that’s just sped past us to blow his brains out and some things never change and suddenly the check engine light is on again even if you wish they would.

“I hope your engine explodes,” she says to me, and I laugh like a man because God I do too, I hope the engine blows up right here on 95 North and makes a mushroom cloud and leaves a crater like a bullet in the moon, and everyone knows that I meant it, and I would die laughing I think, I really do think I’d die laughing in a nuclear explosion.

“I’m pulling over for gas,” I tell her, and she cackles and switches the CDs, and I pull off into a plaza labeled Chesapeake House and we tumble from the car and did you lock it, yes I locked it, they’re closed the doors are locked no they aren’t, did you know there’s nothing here, can’t you feel the emptiness and isn’t it so beautiful.

“I buried the rib deep underground,” she’s saying to the night shift cashier, “I dug it out with a knife and buried it ten feet in the dirt and left it there to rot.”

“That’ll be $4.63,” he tells her, and we pay it and take the drink and she hands it to me and I bite the pull tab off but do not swallow it, I hold it under my tongue until it dissolves away to nothing and we walk backwards to the car, and there’s a man parked right next to us much too close, and she yells at him to eat a dick but he can’t hear us and it doesn’t matter, because we’re already leaving, we’re already leaving.

“North or South?” I ask, home or away, but she can’t hear me, and no wonder she can’t, we’re in a car that’s older than us driving to New York and back on a Wednesday night for no reason at all, it is foolish to expect things to be as they seem now.

“I have a rib that Adam wants back,” she tells me and I nod because I know, and so I turn onto 95 South and we’re going home I think and there is a truck blocking the way, and I drive right through it and we’re on the highway, and she jams her fingers in her eye sockets and ribs the skin straight down her face and bugs crawl out, big black beetles that fall from the flesh and chase each other round and round and round and round and darling darling where’re are you going, don’t you know we’re headed to New York, don’t you know we’re going to New York!


I’m leaning on my front foot with my weight spread properly and a gun in my shoulder as I aim for the apples, the pair of twin apples you’ve lined up for me on the fence gleaming in the fading sun, red delicious they must be, apples good for nothing but looking good on fences, and I focus hard on them and take a breath in and breathe the shells right out and hit both apples clean through the middle and they explode toward the heavens in a glorious display of sickening power.

“Nice shot,” you say, and I am quiet. “Let’s play a new game,” you say to me, and you gesture toward the open field and grab the bag of apples and start making your way through the treeline, and I break the gun and hoist it over my shoulder and follow you into the brush and bristle and it is scraping my legs, and I can smell the gunpowder on my hands and I decide I do like it, the faint scent of destruction on my fingers, and I’d do anything don’t you know, I would do anything for you.

“Yell pull when you’re ready,” you tell me as you place the bag on the ground and I understand the game now I understand the new game and so I shift my weight and place my feet and call out the command, and you point your shoulder toward the sky and lob an apple at the sun and I blow it up, again you say pull I say, again and again and again you giveth and I taketh away and something’s wrong, something’s so odd that I miss the very last apple, for the first time since time I miss the apple and it plummets to the ground and bruises but does not burst and the deer will eat it later, and I turn to you you are shaking your head for you are so very disappointed but no that isn’t right I have killed for you I have killed for you and I break the gun and throw it to the ground and I explode toward the heavens for I am your son, I am your son, your favorite son, your favorite son!

Madeline Graham is an environmental science student, writer, and musician based around Washington, DC. She has previously been published in her college’s literary journal The Red Jacket, and is a lyricist for her folk band Normie Girlfriend.



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