The Last Minute
Written by Rebekah Postupak
One minute remained on the timer.
The others had left courteously some time earlier, offering their customary polite thanks to the host. But this last one lingered, to the point that the rest of the minutes began to feel uncomfortable.
“People will talk!” said one minute (the first minute, in point of fact), nudging his neighbor. “This sort of thing isn’t done. Or it shouldn’t be, anyway.”
“Was never done in my day,” sniffed the neighbor in agreement. “We minutes knew when our turn was up, and we left on schedule. Never any trouble.”
“What is she doing up there, anyway?!” said a third minute, emphasizing his disapproval with a low growl. “Not like she could magically get sixty-one seconds, no matter how she panders.”
“Hear, hear,” murmured the first two. “Sixty seconds. No more, no less.”
Still the last minute lingered.
“I hope she doesn’t think being last makes her special,” said a minute from somewhere in the middle. “All minutes are the same, last, middle, or first.”
“Some minutes might be a *little* more special,” said the first, not liking how the conversation was starting to go. “You know, depending on what’s going on.”
“I don’t see how,” said the middle minute. “We’ve all got sixty seconds, you the same as me.”
“Yes,” said the first, “but—pulling an example out of a hat—the first minute is *first*, see? Nothing came before it. It’s brand new. It’s a new experience, a new flavor, a first kiss, a first plunge off the high dive. Later minutes are just mimickers. That’s a little more special, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Unique is not the same as special,” said the third minute. “First mugging. First speeding ticket. First paper cut.”
“First verbal faux pas,” the middle minute chimed in with a snort, looking very hard at the first minute.
“All right, all right,” said the first, glaring at the group. “That’s all very well, but none of it answers why Miss Not-In-A-Hurry up there hasn’t joined us yet.”
“Maybe she forgot the way,” suggested someone.
This was shouted down vehemently.
“Minutes can’t forget the way! Not possible! Take that back!”
The third minute raised a brow in the first minute’s general direction. “It would seem, my friend, that’s impossible. Any other genius ideas?”
“She…” The minute faltered. “Distracted, maybe?”
“Maybe she’s being kept there by force!” someone else cried out. “We should mount a rescue operation!”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Minutes can’t go *back*. We couldn’t, no matter how enthusiastically we tried,” said the third.
The second minute added softly, “And we’ve tried, you know that. We’ve all tried, so many times.”
“Then I give up,” said the first. “I don’t know what could be keeping her.”
“Me neither,” said the second, and the third, and the fourth, and the fifth, and the middle, not understanding why this made them feel like weeping.
480 words, written for #FinishThatThought. First sentence provided; maximum story length 500 words.