Burden of Proof by Steven Patchett

“So, once again listeners, do your own research, use your own senses, don’t accept the heliocentric model. Goodbye, I’ll see you in our next live stream.” He clicked on the mouse, sat back in his chair, looking self-satisfied. Maybe a little spent, like he’d half-heartedly run in a marathon. 

It took a moment to notice I was sitting there with him in the frigid gloom of the shed. “Oh, hi babe, didn’t see you,” He fumbled with his papers. He doesn’t ask if I’d enjoyed the show this time. He knows I don’t often listen.

I tilted my head to the side. “So,” I said, “tell me again how the world is flat.” He raised his eyebrows and scrambled for his notes. Took my hand and drew me down his rabbit hole, showed me videos of ‘unrefutable evidence’ where a wet tennis ball was spun so quickly the water sprayed off in all directions, ships over the horizon were brought back into view with the simple zoom of a camera. A picture never lies, he told me, you’ll never see curvature. Water finds its own level. 

By the end he was breathing hard, face shining with a fervent gleam. “Well, what do you think?”

“Okay,” I said. “So, you keep on asking for people to prove you’re wrong. But even when they do, you’ll always refute it.”

His smile faded like clouds over the distant sun, “That’s not quite how I would put it.”

“Okay,” I said, “how about a thought experiment.” I looked at the ceiling, tapping my fingers on my mouth, pretending to think, preparing what I’d planned, “Say if I believed you’ve been sleeping with your ex-wife,”

He sat back like he’d been slapped, I could imagine a palm print appearing on his redding face. “That’s ridiculous,”

“If it is, can you prove you’re not?”

He looked uncertain, trying to read my expression. “Sure, why don’t you call Janice and ask her.” He said her name without the suitably crumpled look he wore when we first met.

“But that’s just someone else’s opinion, isn’t it,” I said. “It’s not actual proof,”

He looked uncomfortable, mouth grimacing like he’d swallowed something bitter, like the taste of ash in mine. 

He stammered that he loved me, that he’d never do anything to hurt me.

I waved the comment away, “Oh, I’m not accusing you, sweetheart,” He relaxed very slightly in his chair, but slowly folded his arms, “I’m asking for proof you’re not cheating on me,”

“I – I can’t, honey,” he said with a shrug and a narrow smile. “You’ll just have to take it on faith,” 

“I’d rather have the truth,” I brought out the photograph, slid it before him and stepped out into the spinning world.

Steven Patchett is an Engineer, Father and Writer, living and working in the North East of England. His Flash Fictions have been published in Ellipsis Zine, 100 Words of Solitude and The Cabinet of Heed. He can be found on Twitter, being encouraging @StevenPatchett7

Image: unsplash.com