FICTION January 5, 2024


Survival is for your sister, not for you.

**[Stop]: When something goes wrong in the wilderness, which usually means someone gets hurt, or you realize you are lost, or you see a bad storm coming. Stop. Think. Observe. Plan.
She said, “It’s back,” and you said she could beat it again. Sweaty cell phone pressed against your ear, the answer is distracted because a gentle cat’s paw is on your hand, insisting. You will always remember what you didn’t know and, in not knowing, you didn’t give her your full attention. Later, you learn “metastatic” means incurable. Maybe you’re willfully naïve? You vow to be in every moment now and forever. Vigilant.

**[Think]: The two biggest killers in the great outdoors are poor planning and panic. Most people don't die in the wilderness because of the wilderness itself (the wild elements, injuries, rogue grizzly bears, etc.). Most people die because of the mistakes they made when confronted with just such a survival situation.
You watch her close her eyes, reclined with headphones. You knit the softest wool while you wait: tiny fibers to keep her warm in the cold room. First aid snakes near her heart, venom through a portal. Time folds, and you’re both here, waiting for the poison to finish filling her veins, and there, standing in front of your childhood fridge-size freezer, twelve- and thirteen-year-olds, choosing your Hostess treats. Soon, the two-inch brick ledge surrounding the wood-burning fireplace becomes a concert stage. You lean a practiced hand on its summer-cool surface, singing the low and high parts of the 80s duo, Air Supply. How could you not know?

**[Observe]: Mental health is important, too. Try to keep everyone up with a positive mental attitude. Most people who have survived in truly hazardous wilderness situations did so mainly because they believed that they would survive and that they could survive.
Three years pass. Gratitude becomes complicated. Your sister is dying. Your sister has been dying. Your sister will die. Endurance replaces adrenaline until you find yourself sprawled in her soft recliner, watching Hoarders, and fetching her gummy bears. Your words walk away until what they don’t say forms the syllables of “survival.” Hope is a dying star. They say we are made of stars. Stardust feeds her tumors until her spine is eroding into a black hole.

**[Plan]: Provide any first aid that is necessary—and not just on the obvious stuff, like blisters and cuts and broken bones.
But chemo is not forever. There will come a time in your sister’s stage four treatment when the rampant cancer, in her bones, her liver, her blood, her brain, will begin to outsmart the chemicals both killing her and keeping her alive. Today, living a future fold in time, a memory to shake out later, you watch her close her eyes. How could the other you, furled in the past and singing Air Supply, not know? Would your voice have cracked? Sung so much harder? “I’m all out of love. I’m so lost without you.”

**Seven Survival Priorities. Scout Troop 116 (based on US Air Force survival priorities).

MaxieJane Frazier is a writer, teacher, editor, and retired military veteran. Her work has appeared in Collateral Journal, Scribes*MICRO*Fiction, Bending GenresThe Ekphrastic Review, The Bath Flash Fiction anthology, and other places. MaxieJane holds an MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars and co-founded Birch Bark Editing where she is a co-editor of MicroLit Almanac. Social Media: Threads & Instagram @maxiejane322 | Facebook @MaxieJaneFrazier | Twitterpated: @MaxieJaneF