Please welcome the return of Sal Buttaci.
FOR HOW LONG
The hard marble floor hurt his bended knees. He sighed deeply hoping it would distract him from thoughts of pain and annoyance. After all, he was in the presence of a king and that required all the courage he could muster. Bernard Gonzales had dared traverse this far beyond the paltry realm of humankind, the audacity of which he boasted only to himself.
Eyes downcast –– gazing could result in immediate death –– he asked, “How long I got?”
King Tempus Fugit sat quite tall on his throne. He wore no beard, white or otherwise. Nor did he bear the corpulent weight of that Santa of centuries ago. In fact, he looked dapper in his white ermine double-breasted suit, his blue calendar tie slightly askew, his golden crown tilted like a crime-noir Fedora.
The king glanced at his Timex. “Fifty seconds and you are out of here,” he said.
“No, I mean, how long I got left to live?”
King Tempus Fugit squinted his sea-blue eyes and fixed them unblinkingly on the hourglass which sat hovering above Gonzales’ bowed bald head. He watched the sand grains trickle down small as seconds, smooth as passing minutes. Unbridled descents into the bottom glass of dead time.
Then Bernard Gonzales took it upon himself to narrate the miseries of his life. How his young parents had died together in a blazing auto crash. His wife and two daughters lost to the Tuna Fish Flu that killed so many in 2043. “It’s just me now, King Tempus. All alone to live out my ––”
“And live out you will! But for how long? The precise moment when heart ceases to chime? Brain shuts itself down to the ebb and flow of synaptic wonder?”
“Yes, how long I got?” persisted the kneeling man.
The king motioned Gonzalez to stand and approach him. Then from his throne he leaned forward as the man tilted his ear towards the mouth of the king, prepared to take in the whisper of his scheduled demise, but King Tempus Fugit instead chuckled, exhaled hot breath, and said, “It’s a secret, Bernard. I can’t reveal it. When it comes, you’ll know it. No way to prepare. Do what you can with whatever time you have left. Do some good. Ask yourself again who made all creation. Douse the fires of your discontent with bursts of spontaneous laughter.”
“That’s it?” asked Gonzalez.
The king with a wave of his gloved hand ordered to the two time guards to remove the man from his court. “Time to go,” he said. “Time is a-wasting.”
Sal Buttaci writes daily. His work has appeared widely in print and on the Internet. Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, two of his flash collections, were published by All Things That Matter Press and can be purchased at Amazon.com. Sal is a retired teacher and college professor who resides in West Virginia with his loving and loved wife Sharon.
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