The Numbing Effect

*Warning: Contains Adult Language.

The smell of garbage, now too familiar, makes Natalie wish she could go back home to the smell of her mother’s Chanel perfume. She holds the pipe to her lips, hits it, and lets her head fall back against the brick building in the alleyway caught up in the rush. The buildings and blackness start to spin, her eyes follow them around and around, her smile widens as her mother appears dancing with her father. It’s his 40th birthday and there are so many couples dancing, smiling, spinning around and around like the tiny ice skaters on her mother’s Christmas display.

“You’re lucky to have parents like that,” her boyfriend, Tom, says as he runs his hand up and down her back, “Very lucky.” His parents divorced six years ago, when he was ten, and they still aren’t speaking to each other.

Natalie hears loud, angry voices and the music transforms from symphony to a deep, throbbing bass and though she can feel its vibration, the dancers continue to smile and waltz as if unaware that anything has changed. Tom bends down and kisses her and when she opens her eyes she sees her father driving, the road disappearing beyond the headlights. Her mother laughs, leans towards her father and kisses him. When her mother jerks away Natalie is blinded by light and the sharp slice of the windshield into her head.

“What the fuck you think you doin’, whore?” Mason, Natalie’s boyfriend, says. He’d slammed her head against the brick building and she can feel the blood snaking down the back of her scalp. “You don’t get paid when you sittin’ here wit’ the trash.” He grabs her arm – his pale, dirty face replacing her mother’s, his laughter becoming louder as her mother’s fades away – and throws her into the street.

Natalie gets in the next car that stops, her only purpose to get enough money to score more crystal. Mason took her pipe. She has to replace that, too.

The man drops her off at the same corner he picked her up on Parker Street and she stuffs the twenty dollars into her bra and starts walking towards Bidder Street where she knows she can score.

“What you got this time, Nat?” Z says as he opens the door.


“You look like shit.”

“I know, Z, please.”

Z walks into the kitchen and Natalie swipes a pipe off the small table in the living room. He comes out, hands her a small bag, and she pulls a ten out of her bra before walking out the door.

Natalie walks down the alleyway off Parker Street and slides in between the dumpster and the brick building before sitting down. She hopes Mason won’t find her here, but even if he does, she has his ten dollars, so he can fuck off. She lifts the pipe to her lips, feel the burn as she hits it, and smiles at the feeling, at the darkness, at the relief.

But then the spinning started, the car in flames, her mother’s screams, her father trying to get her mother free, the cool grass calming Natalie’s burning face. She can’t move, can only watch as her mother’s screams fade and her dad collapses. The fluorescent lights click on and off as Natalie floats down the halls of the hospital, loud voices all around her.

Somebody’s angry, yelling. Her dad. Drunk again.

“Get out. You look just like your goddamn mother. I can’t do this anymore. Get the fuck out.”

Natalie walks out the door of her home, the sound of the deadbolt fastening behind her.

Lights are clicking on and off, on and off, blue against the walls.

“Hey, get up.”

Someone grabs her arm, but gently. Natalie can’t see, her eyes unable to focus. She is confused by the scratchy sound of people talking and the bright lights. A man pulls her out from behind the dumpster and she tries to focus, tries to force the shadow into light.



*This was an assignment for class. I attempted to immitate the style of Chekhov’s Sleepy.

**This post is part of #FridayFlash which can be found by following the link or searching the hashtag on Twitter.


14 thoughts on “The Numbing Effect”

  1. Well done, dark and painful. I’m just going to believe that it was her Dad, finally coming to his senses and rescuing his little girl. It says a lot for your character building skills that I am afraid for her and am leaving this story hoping for the best as she gets up. 🙂

  2. I was surprised by the ending, too.

    The whole scene is really gritty, very pinched and emotional. The movement back and forth from memory to reality was nicely balanced.

  3. Well told. Like Linda I was surprised by the ending. In a good way. I’m a big fan of ending flash with short dialogue. It gives the reader room to draw their own conclusions.

  4. Very good weaving (as Cascade Lily put it) of the past with the present.

    The Mona-Lisa-smile ending is great – I first read it as her father having come to rescue her, but now I don’t know…

  5. Nice work! I choose to believe that it really is her father coming to save her at the end. The rest of the piece is so dark, I like a little light at the end. But the ambiguity is delicious.

  6. Wow. I really enjoyed this. Loved the layers of the present and past overlaid on top of each other. The subject matter is one fascinating to me and I think you handle it well. Hmm…wonder if it’s Daddy…

  7. Wow — it’s a fantastic story! I am impressed. you brought me right though the addiction. I knew where she was, why she wanted the drugs and how she spiraled down throughout the story — yet I never stopped being riveted. Truly a wonderful piece!

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