Polite Things

by Makenzie Ozycz

Honorable Mention – Flash 405, April 2024: “Home”


I’m stuck in a funeral procession trying to leave town. It moves slow. And I know the polite thing to do is to wait. And I know the whole thing is a fucked-up metaphor for grief. And I know the destination in the GPS doesn’t mean anything anyways.

As my car creeps along, I take in my cyclical surroundings. It’s one road between two rows of dusty shops with smudged windows that have all looked the same since I was a kid. It’s hair salons, pizza joints, pharmacies, and the bird and animal hospital that killed my pet python in 2006. It’s the stretch of my skin in the 2.9 miles between the two post-divorce homes I cried in. The bedrooms I lied in, to my parents, on my pillows. Over boys. Oversleeping. It’s Farmington Avenue to Homecrest Drive, but when the roads iced over in January, the hill at the end of Homecrest was too steep for Mom’s two-door Toyota Scion. So we’d take the long way instead, down Alling Street, a left on Peck, until we reached the same outcome:

The Dairy Queen that was closed half the year. The intersection with the house that had spare boat parts in the backyard. The Webster Bank where my mom dropped deposits off from her job at the CVS Pharmacy down the street. She’d get me lollipops for waiting patiently until one day she didn’t. I guess that was growing up.

It’s home—and its weirdly timed grief.

Like our next-door neighbors. We listened to them scream from their cracked kitchen windows, judging silently as if our home never erupted with the same bouts of occasional chaos. But on the day that an ambulance came and took the husband away, the wife sat in her sloped driveway, barefoot, sobbing with a kitchen towel gripped in her hand. We dressed for the funeral on a Tuesday, for a man we only knew through raged glimpses we caught during backyard barbecues. I asked my mom, why the food, the flowers, the gift baskets of spa treatments?

“It’s the polite thing to do.”

I’m in a funeral procession line trying to leave town. And the town knows I want out. So it grabs me by the open wound in my chest, it holds on tight. And I stay. I wait it out. I give it more pieces of myself than I should.

It’s the polite thing to do.



Judge’s Comments:
Every moment and memory here is so crisp and raw, and it’s all written with such urgency, propelling you to that final feeling, that last look back before leaving.

Makenzie Ozycz is a writer living in Connecticut. She earned her MFA from Western Connecticut State University. She has published creative nonfiction essays in various publications including the Connecticut Literary Anthology, Five Minute Lit, Tones of Citrus, and more.

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Photo by Ryotando