You Don’t Need to Tell Me Anything


This little bit of flash fiction is the result of some experimentation of turning jokes into stories. I quite liked the idea that certain jokes can be made overly elaborate to the point that the telling is as important, if not more so than the actual punchline and it felt like a logical next step to try fleshing one out into an actual story. Was quite a refreshing exercise working around an existing plot, allowing more efforts to be spent on descriptions and actual writing since the story was all already there. At some point I might put up some more like this.

You Don’t Need to Tell Me Anything

Julia peered bleerily through the tanglement of pipes and wires that covered her hospital bed. How long had she been here now? Weeks probably but still no progress. Every day the doctors stood at the foot of her bed, debating in hushed tones about what was making her so sick. What was killing her. They would always evade her questions with ambigous replies but she could see the truth written in their eyes. She wasn’t going to get better.

Becoming aware of warmth in her left palm, with an effort, she turned just enough to see the man sitting at her side.

“Ted” she smiled up at her husband, wincing at even that small movement of muscles.

“How are you feeling today?” he asked warmly. Another large bag of grapes rested on his lap even though the last two still sat untouched on the bedside.

the guilt had been tearing her apart inside, boiling to get out of her

“Like I could run a marathon” she whispered before breaking into a wheezing fit. “Ted – there’s something I need to tell you.”

Ted leaned over to push the hair aside from her clammy forehead.

“Shhh, just you save your energy. You don’t need to tell me anything, I know all there is to know.”

Good old Ted, always dependable, supportive. She remembered that time she’d foolishly run out of petrol on the motorway – he’d been at a conference but had dropped everything to come get her, turning up with a jerry can and bunch of flowers. When her Aunt Lizzie had been on chemo, Ted had driven Julia to see her almost every night, driving home to put the kids to bed and then coming all the way back out to pick her up again. Good old Ted.

“I have to you tell Ted. You need to know before – before…”

“Don’t worry my little cherub.” His sickenly cute nickname for her. “You don’t need to tell me anything.”

She shook her head at him, her throat had gone dry and she had to wait until he had gently raised her head so she could take a little water before continuing.

“It’s about Jimmy” she said. Ted may well be endlessly loving and dependable but his brother Jimmy – well he was the exciting one, the dangerous one. For months Julia had fought to resist him, and he her, but finally, one scorching summer’s day, weeding in the back garden while Ted was off taking the kids to football it had finally happened. They had fallen into each other’s arms and then into bed. And not just the once either, but on and off for almost a year. Every time Ted was out of the picture they had been drawn to each other. They couldn’t help it – it was just chemistry, genes, animal instinct. She had almost been relieved when Jimmy’s bike had skidded onto the wrong side of the road and into oncoming traffic. His death should have been the end of it but ever since, the guilt had been tearing her apart inside, boiling to get out of her.

“Me and Jimmy” she said, her voice quivering. “We… me and him…”

She started to sob, overcome by this long awaited release. But when her tears had finally subsided she found that her husband was neither angry or even visibily upset. He just gave that same old, trademark grin and squeezed her again.

“I told you didn’t need to tell me” he said. “I already know everything.”

“You do?” she asked. How could he have known? They had been so careful, so cautious. How long had he known of her adulterous secret? He had certainly never given any indication of awareness or suspicion.

“But you’re – you’re not angry?” she heard her voice saying, as if from a distance. Could it be? That the forgiveness she had longed for for so long could be so forthcoming? So painless?

Ted leaned forward now, hanging above her so that she could feel his warm breath against her ear and then whispered, very quietly and very carefully: “Who do you think’s been poisoning you?”

Title image courtesy cote

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Published in: on June 12, 2010 at 1:07 PM  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Whoa. That was cold. Somehow I suspect the brother’s death was no accident either! Well done.

    • Thanks for that. Yeah I decided to add in the brother’s death but left it deliberately ambiguous.

  2. I’ll also be wondering about Jimmy today!


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