by Kristen Olsen

Honorable Mention – Flash 405, February 2018: “Greed”



He looked forward every two weeks to this moment, when she entered the room and settled her young body in the cushioned chair. He’d come in early to prepare the space for her, bringing fresh irises, dimming the lights, straightening the photograph of red rock canyons he’d explored many years before. They began by breathing together, long and slow. He read a poem by Rumi and held her hand, so much softer than his own. The session was supposed to last ninety minutes, but he planned to stretch it to fill the entire afternoon. He prodded her with questions. She talked of the life that didn’t fit any more, of looking for herself, and listening for God.

“It’s time for the table,” he finally said.

She climbed up and lay on her back, eyes closed, for the bodywork. He stood and looked down at her face with smooth skin. Dark hair that fell unruly. Raindrops tapped on the window. If he focused on his exhale, time stopped. He moved around her, touched her shoulders, the length of her arms to her hands. She seemed tight today.

He charged for his services, but it wasn’t her money he coveted. He was old now, unable to climb red rocks. She had an aliveness he was still searching for inside himself, raw and beautiful in her suffering. Sometimes he dropped pieces of his own pain into conversation. He was trying online dating, but women his age with spiritual insight were hard to find. He hadn’t been held enough when he was a child. Revealing himself relieved the pressure, for a moment, of his forbidden greed for her.

Afterward, in the hallway, they embraced stiffly.

“Is something wrong?” He felt compelled to ask.

She paused. “Next time, I want to stick to talking and skip the table.” Her face flushed, but she didn’t look away.

“As you wish.” He found her rain jacket in the closet and held it open.

She took it from him and walked down the stairs.

He returned to the room alone and sat in the cushioned chair she’d occupied, breathing in the remains of her light musky perfume. He applauded her growth each session, encouraging her to trust her body, follow its wisdom. He considered himself a healer, but he saw now that part of him wanted her to remain broken. Broken, she needed him. Her brokenness made him feel his want.



Judge’s Comments:
Perhaps the darkest of my picks, Broken is a damning snapshot of the relationship between a healer and his patient, an illustration of greed lurking where one least expects it. It leaves me fascinated by this unthinkable motivation, and a lack of clarity as to whether there’s any remorse.

Kristen Olsen studied creative writing at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and Madeline Island School of the Arts. She lives in Minneapolis, where she practiced law for 17 years. Her work has been published on the website and by the online literary magazine Panoply ( She tweets at @kolsenjd.

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