What’s in your wallet? – flash fiction

I asked the nurse to hand me my wallet. She fumbled it a little and a condom fell out. She kept a straight face, discretely picking it up and setting in on my blanket. Then she left the room, not wanting to burst out laughing in front of me.

Rocky, my roommate, grinned at me from his bed. He was 50 years older than me, with his scraggly beard and glassy eyes.

“Sorry about that,” I said.

Rocky chuckled. “I understand. I was a young buck once. You a college boy?”

“Yeah.”

“I never went to college, but I did have my fun.” He nodded at an inevitable transition. “Then I got married. Margie and me was married 40 years, and I liked that a whole hell of lot better than carrying one of them things in my wallet.” He gestured toward the condom I struggled to stuff back into its home.

“40 years? That’s awesome!” It seemed like the right thing to say.

“It was.” He sighed. “Except for the last few. She got Alzheimer’s. I carried her license in my wallet ‘cause she’d lose it otherwise. She’d lose anything you gave her.” He shook his head. “Then she’d snip at me about it. Finally I said, ‘Margie if this next 40 years don’t go no better, I’m calling it quits.’ That was the last joke I told her.” He frowned. “Not a very good joke.”

“I’m sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“She passed almost two years ago.”

I didn’t want to say sorry again. “Do you still keep her license in your wallet?”

“No. I couldn’t look at it every time. It only reminded me of the past. But I guess she told the last joke. After all that time wedged in that little sleeve, it left a faint impression of her picture on the plastic, like a ghost staring up at me.”

“Did you get a new wallet?”

“Oh no. I don’t mind the ghost. It doesn’t give me bad memories; it says she’s still with me. And being how I already invested 40 years, I guess I’ll keep her.” He turned his wet eyes toward the window and spoke at the sky. “Yup, I guess I’ll keep her.”

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Paper Quarter – Flash fiction

If they wouldn’t come to him, he’d go to them.

Sneaking out of the home wasn’t difficult once you worked up the courage to try it.

There was bus stop down the street. Harold had never ridden the bus before, but he couldn’t think of another way. When the bus stopped, he climbed on. “How much is it to ride?” he asked the driver.

“For seniors it’s 75 cents,” the driver said.

Harold dug into his pocket. He had a $1 bill and two quarters. He handed the driver the bill.

The driver pointed to a slot in the post next to him. “You put bills in there.”

Harold fed the dollar into the slot. A paper card popped out of the post. “How do I get my change?” he asked.

The driver handed him the paper card.

Harold knit his brow. “This is a quarter?”

“It’s good for 25 cents toward your next ride,” the driver explained.

“Oh.” It seemed like they were into him for a quarter now, but the driver looked impatient so Harold didn’t complain.  He put the card into his pocket with his two real quarters. The bus jolted ahead. He fell into an empty seat.

Riders pulled the overhead cord when they wanted the bus to stop. Harold wanted Lexington Avenue, but didn’t know what stop preceded it. Nervous, he pulled the cord too soon. It wasn’t the right stop, but everyone saw him pull the cord. He got off and walked the extra blocks.

He climbed the steps of the porch and put his finger on the doorbell. He didn’t push the button.

This was a mistake. Their first thoughts would be to take him back. Sharon wouldn’t see her father; she’d see an escapee. It would be harder to sneak out again.

Why did he even come here?

Through the front window Harold noticed movement.  Leaning against the window frame, he peered in.

Joey sat on the carpet, playing with his trucks in the sunshine. Harold leaned and grinned as the boy tottered around on the floor, lost in his own imagination.

The toddler looked up, finding the face in the window. Harold smiled and waved. Joey waved back.

“I love you, Joey,” Harold mouthed.

Joey’s eyes lit up. “I love you, Grampa!”

Joey jumped up and ran deeper into the house, yelling to his parents that Grampa was here. Harold shuffled down the steps and hurried away. Fortunately, nobody believed children or old people.

Entering the bus, Harold slid his paper quarter into the slot. He dropped his two real quarters into the well. As they clinked onto other quarters, he found a seat.

It was satisfying to hear the clink of real quarters, and to get rid of the fake quarter they’d saddled him with. He had no more money, but at least nobody was into him for 25 cents anymore. He’d sneak back into his room with everything square, confident he’d gotten his money’s worth from the trip.

*****

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