Jack and Jill’s Final Adventure, by Epiphany Ferrell
They hadn’t told anyone about Jack’s cancer. Not officially. Jill had known. Of course. She was there when he got the call, there to see him set his phone down on the table, missing it, the phone clattering to the kitchen floor.
“They called? On the phone. They could have had you come into the office, talked to you face to face,” she’d said, angry about protocol. Jack understood that Jill felt helpless, that her protective instinct had to go somewhere.
Of course, there was chemo. Jill had dark circles under her eyes, and Jack protested, ordering her to take better care of herself.
“Don’t shave your head to match, too,” Jack tugged on her ponytail for the sake of tradition.
Prostate cancer moves fast. The first round of chemo failed. Jack didn’t want a second round. There wasn’t much point.
They spent their last Christmas together in Vermont, at their grandparents’ old farm, turned now into an Airbnb by the new owners. There was snow on the ground when they arrived and four inches overnight. “Snow day,” they exclaimed, watching a snowmobile go by on the road.
They remembered the way to the hill as if it hadn’t been 15 years since they’d been there. There was the sledding slope. And there, just yards to one side, was the slope with the deadly drop-off.
They had their vintage Flexible Flyers, purchased from eBay. In great shape, too. They’d sand-papered the rust off the runners the night before. They’d bucketed water to the hill early in the morning, making ice. “Fast,” they said to each other.
They poised the sleds at the top of the hill, Jack on one slope, Jill on the other. The thin layer of ice gleamed rosy in the late afternoon sun. Jack’s eyes were luminous in his chemo-ravaged face. Jill’s eyes were filled with all the things they would never do together.
“Race you!” Jack cried, leaped onto his sled, and away he went! Fast as lightning. He looked over his shoulder once to see if he was winning.
Jill watched him go, airborne, flying. She positioned her sled, barely able to see the sled tracks on the drop-off slope. And she went tumbling after.
Epiphany Ferrell lives in a berm home across the road from a corner of the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. Her stories appear in Best Microfiction 2020 and 2021, Best Small Fictions 2021, New Flash Fiction Review, Ghost Parachute, Pulp Literature, and other places. She is a two-time Pushcart nominee, and won the 2020 Prime Number Magazine Flash Fiction Prize.