Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts



Hidden Guilt

The battered senior prom picture Michael sequesters in his wallet comes to light when he suffers alone. Staring at it, he remembers; standing tall on legs, twirling Tessa in her sparkly white dress, donning the crown of the elected high school king in love with the queen. He burrows it back into its cave and looks to the sky; his faith is his strength. He prays to be free from the guilt for the wheelchair he uses, the job he can no longer do, and not being thankful enough. He is driven to hide the pain while helping others.

Written in response to Charli Mills March 11, 2021, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about deep wishes. Where is the deep — in the sky, the ground, or outer space? What kind of wishes reside there for whom and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Tessa’s Lament

My ex didn’t need me

He made that perfectly clear

Home I came to help the folks

But in reality, they help me

My children are grown

The oldest chose to move here

Closeness she desires

And a grandmother for Emma

But they would be fine without me

I thought Michael needed a helpmate

But he’s so damn self-sufficient

He helps others in need

The Homefront Warriors welcomed me

But I’m just another voice

And set of understanding ears

PTSD? for a military wife

Nah. Someone please help me

Rejoice in being wanted

Compared to being needed

Written in response to Charli Mills March 11, 2021, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about deep wishes. Where is the deep — in the sky, the ground, or outer space? What kind of wishes reside there for whom and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Kobe Didn’t Die Alone

The world is reeling from the sudden death of Kobe Bryant, me along with them. I’ve had to examine why I have shed tears over this loss. It’s because I know the pain and want to share a few thoughts, for my own healing, and to help you understand.

We know there were a father and daughter, a set of parents and a daughter, a mother, and another mother and a daughter, plus the pilot on the helicopter. None survived. That leaves a mother with three children, a father with three children, two siblings, and another father and twin boys left in their homes wondering what the hell just happened. I couldn’t find any information on the pilots surviving next of kin. 

I think it’s safe to surmise, someone at the gym called the Bryant home to find out why Kobe was late. Or someone called one of the other adults’ homes to find out. That would have set off a panic within the friends, each calling the other to find out why the group was late, and no one would have an answer. Who knows how the information that the copter went down finally got to the survivors, and how soon they realized they were survivors. From experience, I know that the amount of time will have felt like a lifetime. Think of the other teenage teammates having to deal with death head-on, not of just one friend, but of three of their coaches and three of their friends, and the parents too. I guarantee you, those young ladies are forever changed, some will suffer emotional damage that will never heal.

My husband was in a motorcycle accident 16 years ago. His daughter, who was riding with him, didn’t survive. I know, as a survivor, getting the phone call telling me there had been an accident was the worst phone call I ever got. Until I could get to the hospital over an hour away, I had no idea what the rest of my life would be like. Even after getting there and finding out Alicia had been killed, there were no answers for a few mind-numbing days. And for months after, the ringing of the telephone (before there were cell phones) was frightening when I didn’t know where my husband was.

Believe me, there is panic, denial, anger and a total lack of understanding. In California, there are five families, and countless friends and first responders, dealing with these feelings first hand. The numbness takes control because the human mind can’t deal with the sudden pain. It takes time for the circumstances to become real, then a whole other set of emotions settle in and have to be dealt with. The surviving spouses have to figure out how to get through each hour, then each day, then each month. They have to deal with legal “crap,” funerals, adjusting schedules, and their children’s’ and their own questions and grief, which never affects two people the same way.

The youngest children will probably cry and demand that Daddy or Mommy come home. The older children will think the accident is their fault for something they did wrong the day before or they might think they could have prevented the tragedy if they had acted differently but they have no idea in what way. Some will take on the responsibility of trying to “fix” their surviving parent’s pain. They could become a “parent” to their surviving siblings, or they will find themselves living with a relative that is as devastated as they are.

When you lose someone unexpectedly it is normal to ask why. At first, the question applies to today, but let me tell you, the question remains, forever. For the siblings who are students, the question gets louder, when they see other classmates with two parents when they take part in any activity and there isn’t a parent to attend, and on it goes. The same question affects the surviving parent and the first few bars of a song can send them into a crying fit of utter despair because it was their child’s favorite song. I’ve lived it. It isn’t fair and it’s hard to deal with and “recover” from.

Everyone who is related to those that died, and their friends, will now keep track of time in their life as “before” and “after” the accident. That’s how it is with an unexplainable tragedy. 

I know some are saying the weather was such they shouldn’t have been flying. Please do your homework, the pilot was instrument certified, which means he was flying by instrument readings, not sight. It’s an aviation thing and pilots do it all the time. The wind is much more dangerous than fog. Yes, I do know what I’m talking about. No, I’m not a pilot. Placing blame won’t bring anyone back, but I realize it is the human thing to do. 

The fact remains, the world has lost a sports icon, an overachiever of a good example as a basketball player, husband, father, friend, businessman and human being, but he didn’t die alone. 

Five families, a community, a city, and the sports world have been forever changed and everyone on board deserves to be recognized. Their families deserve to have their hearts held with love, be expected to change, and given the opportunity to grieve in their own way.  These families are broken. If you know them personally, just be there, you don’t even have to say anything. Your presence will be enough. For all you others who care and are genuinely interested, give them space and time to heal, mind your own business and send up a prayer. It can’t hurt and might help more than you know.


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