High Maintenance

Flash Fiction Month 2019, Day 24

Doctor Hewlett checked the next two names on her schedule: Nic Panaso and Mark Lex. She called them in.

“So,” she began. “Tell me a little about your relationship: how did you two meet?”

“Well,” said Nic. “It was at that electronics superstore—the one just outside of town. We were at the same checkout, and we just sort of clicked. It was like we were made for each other, you know? Like we were meant to be together.”

“It’s common to feel that something’s missing once that initial excitement wears off, but you must still see something in each other.”

“Well, yes! We still connect on so many levels: USB, Bluetooth, even over our home network. But—”

Doctor Hewlett put up a hand. “I’m quite conscious that I haven’t heard a word from Mark yet.” She turned to him. “Is there anything you’d like to say?”

Mark leaned forward significantly. “Black ink low.”

“Excuse me?”

“That’s just it,” said Nic. “There’s always something. I try to be supportive, but it feels like whatever I do, it’s never enough.”

“Black ink low,” repeated Mark.

“These problems often boil down to a lack of communication,” offered Doctor Hewlett. “Is there anything you could do to provide more black ink?”

“I’ve tried! But—”

“Cartridge not recognised or incorrectly installed. Please use only genuine ink.”

“I just feel like I’m the one doing all the work here,” said Nic. “Like, we’re holding a barbequeue at our allotment next Sunday. I organise the whole thing, write up the flyers, all he has to do is print them, and then—”

“Black ink low.”

“A good relationship often involves compromise,” said Doctor Hewlett. “Mark, even though your black ink’s low, do you think you could print the flyers anyway? Perhaps on some kind of more economical ‘fast draft’ setting?”

“Colour cartridge empty,” explained Mark.

“There isn’t even any colour on the flyers,” said Nic. “They’re entirely black and white.”

“Is that true, Mark?”

“Colour cartridge…empty.”

Nic sighed. “I can’t keep doing this. I don’t want everything to be about work—we have fun, we put that moth meme on the fridge—but more and more, it really feels like it is. Every time something goes wrong, it’s up to me to fix it, and I just don’t know if I can this time.”

“Error EC5: Unable to program pseudo-random printhead ID.”

Doctor Hewlett said nothing. She could guide her clients towards a healthier relationship, but ultimately it was up to them to change—if they could.

Nic stood. “Goodbye, Mark.”

He began to walk towards the door.


Nic stopped. He turneed back to Mark.

One by one, printed pages began to pile on the short glass-top table in the centre of the room.

The two of them embraced, and Doctor Hewlett smiled. There were no easy fixes in her line of work, but this, she sensed, could be the start of something better for the both of them.

Nic picked up a sheet of paper from the table.

He frowned. “This…this is just fifteen copies of the theatre tickets we needed last week.”

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

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