Alone

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You back out of the driveway, past the “For Sale” sign, into the same roads you sped over in high school. Some blacktop. Some gravel. All deserted. No one caught on and you never got caught.

You know you can drive fast until you get to town. Then slow to a crawl. Wave at Mrs. Brown. Pull up to the undertaker’s where your honor student persona worked ages ago as a receptionist. A job where straight white teeth counted.

When you said good-bye, locked the door on that past life, you never intended to return. But now, alone, you’re back.

Birthday Wishes

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“He’s not old enough for live ammunition.” As if settling the issue she said, “He hasn’t even made his first communion.”

“He’s a good shot.” The boy’s father turned up the stairs. He wrapped the box of bullets in teddy bear paper and stuck a yellow bow on top. He never had been good with bows. But he knew she wouldn’t wrap it. Not after that tirade.

Timmy’s kindergarten buddies would come sit around the festive table. His father set the ammo carton near the cake, pride trumping judgement, fear overcoming reason.

She would pray for them both.

Alabama Justice

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A pregnant woman approached the battered wooden desk at her hometown police station. “Charge me with endangering my fetus.”

“You’re Buck’s wife.”

She nodded. “He’s the one endangering.”

“What you do to git him riled?”

It was always the same. They wouldn’t take a report.

“I read it in the paper today. He was mean when I married him. I’m ready to pay for my crime.”

“You got any marks?”

“Not yet. Just threats.”

“I’m sure he didn’t mean it, Mrs. Buck. Go on, now.”

A woman officer came in. She made the arrest.

Remind Him to Laugh

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Dash had slept with countless women. His old friend, Anne, called it trying to prove something. He became himself with Grayson. They’d been together forever.

Their big empty house had a “For Sale” sign in the front. Not for long. San Francisco real estate moves fast and Dash was motivated. Dash’s retirement party was tomorrow. Anne would call him “queen” at the airport. She was the only one left who could. She’d help him grieve, find another life. Sell the house, tie up loose ends, deliver him to the ashram to reinvent himself. Most important, she’d make him laugh.

……..

Find “The Vow” which features Dash, Anne and Grayson at https://www.paloaltoonline.com/short_story/short_story_33/adult2.php

The story took second place in the 2019 Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest.

Chair

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It’s an old chair. A well used chair. One that has seated its share of guests and heard its quota of secrets and meted out a good measure of comfort. The chair sat in the nursery for decades, making a cushy seat for the nursemaid when she wasn’t walking the floor with a colicky baby. After the nursery became a study, the chair had a grand refurbishing in burgundy velvet. It sat under a bright lamp, digesting scholarly papers while its occupant snored. In the attic now, a mouse has made a nest in the seat. Time to reclaim it.

Milestones

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Josephine pulled the seams on her polyester pants straight. She thought it wasn’t right to wear dark clothes that said mourning on a warm day that said Texas summer. Fanning her face and damp underarms, she glanced at her daughter while the undertaker spoke. What Josephine really wanted was to go home and shower.

Cirrhosis took Josephine’s husband to an early grave, but not soon enough, she thought. She loved her husband, “Great guy,” she always said. She meant it despite his gambling debts.

Her daughter’s face colored thirty seconds after Josephine asked, “How much does the funeral usually run?”

Survivor

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My grandfather hijacks every conversation. Maybe World War II was the biggest thing that happened to him. The last time I wanted to borrow money, he told me that when he was nineteen his ship sunk in the Mediterranean. The water was red with blood. Many people were killed. I always thought that he exaggerated, but now I’ve read about that battle. I’m nineteen and I think, maybe if I’d been there, I’d have to keep telling that story about people I’d saved. Swimming, hypothermia, explosions, smoke. Video games, but real. Survivor’s guilt on steroids. Maybe he’s always had P.T.S.D.