After Diagnostic Tests
You disconnect as cleanly as if you put your mail on hold, took animals to kennel, moved to Rome or Tenerife. You cancel dinner parties, silly legal tender, treat new friends as undeveloped negatives. You ignore that dented fender, which anyway takes on a beauty of its own. You stop listening to campaign speeches, the Red Sox on a winning streak, anything with an undetermined outcome longer than your own. Bach and Mozart lack the distraction of language. Novels seem frivolous, and not enough poetry takes you home to any truth you want to know. You sit with the cat in your lap across from whatever family there is. Your vision narrows to a door, a desk, a doctor’s voice. You’re waiting for news.
Pamela Painter is the author of three story collections, the most recent is Wouldn’t You Like to Know. She is also the co-author of What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. Her stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, Ploughshares, Smokelong Quarterly, Threepenny Review and Epoch, among others, and in numerous anthologies such as Sudden Fiction, Flash Fiction, Micro Fiction, and Flash Fiction Forward. She has received grants from The Massachusetts Artists Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts, has won three Pushcart Prizes and Agni Review’s The John Cheever Award for Fiction. Five of Painter’s stories have been presented by Word Theater. Painter teaches in the MFA Program at Emerson College in Boston.