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.

Dream House – flash fiction

He stopped the car across the street from the house.

“Why are you stopping here?” his wife asked.

“You know, over the years, whenever I looked at this house, I always thought: Now that’s a beautiful house,” was his roundabout answer.

“Our dream house,” she agreed.

“The whole lot is beautiful. Of course, it’ll look better once the For Sale sign comes down.”

“You can tell the people who lived here really loved this place,” she assured him.

He gave her a flash of smile.

She nodded. “Let’s go inside.”

He shook his head. “I don’t know if that’d be a good idea.”

“Why not? You’ve got the key. What’s wrong with us going in our own house?”

“Technically, it is our house, isn’t it? Okay, but just for a minute.”

He turned the car into the driveway. They went into the house. The big emptiness of it hit them inside the doorway.

Even their voices seemed different in the void. “Remember the first day?” he asked.

“It looked just like this, except completely different.”

“The whole world was completely different then.”

“I remember you said it’d be the perfect place to raise a family,” she told him.

He pursed his lips and looked away.

She took his arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way. Your company downsized. That’s not your fault.”

“It’s getting late,” he surmised without the aid of a timepiece. “We’d better get to the closing and turn over the keys to the new people.”

His hand trembled a bit as he locked the door for the last time. She lifted up his face and wiped a budding tear from his eye. “There will be other good jobs and other dream houses,” she promised.

They got into the car and went away.

 

Love Triangle – Flash fiction

love-triangle

(Image Credit: Russell Lee)

He sipped her coffee to make sure it wasn’t too hot before setting it next to the toast he’d quartered for her.

She smiled love at him through hazy eyes as he sat beside her.

He helped her hold the cup steady while she raised it to her lips.

“Oh Dean, no one could love me like you do,” she told him in her scratchy voice.

He nodded a little and helped her set the cup down.

She batted her eyes. “And no one could love you like I do. Wanna know a secret? If something ever happened to you, I would never love again.”

He pursed his lips.

“No one could ever fill your shoes, my darling Dean! You’re the only one for me. Ever.”

He acknowledged her sweet smile for a second before helping her hand holding the toast find her mouth. He had his own aches and pains, but seeing her like this hurt more than all of them.

“So don’t you ever leave me. If you ever did, I’d be alone forever.”

“There’d always be people who care for you,” he reassured her, “people who love you dearly.”

“Maybe. But in here,” she tapped her chest with a fragile finger, “I’d be alone. I’d always be alone without my Dean.”

He didn’t bother to remind her anymore. It was no use. He let her failing mind live in its ancient paradise with its long-lost first love.

Their confusing wedding photos were locked away. Pictures of their children were images of Dean’s children to her, but at least they were still her children, when she recognized them.

After 42 years, Brian let himself be memories of Dean, lifting the loneliness from her heart and holding it in his own.

Together they raised the cup to her lips.

Heart of the Family – Flash fiction

broken-heart

Jesse brought a little picture of himself, in case looking at him would somehow make them feel closer to their own son.

They were a typical middle-aged couple. Ann, the mother gave Jesse a hug. The father, Rob, shook his hand.  After the handshake lunch turned awkward.

He’d practiced how he would express himself, but in person it was all different. How do you say this kind of thank you? What’s the right mixture of your renewal with their loss?

Jesse forced out an unbalanced thank you. They nodded their acceptance. The conversation was choppy, never allowed to go too deep.

Rob wouldn’t look him in the eye. When Rob went to the men’s room for the second time, Jesse frowned.

“It’s been hard on him,” Ann explained.

Jesse nodded. “I can only imagine.”

“On both of us. Robby was our only child.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Rob and Robby were two peas in a pod. He lived through that boy. Since the accident, well, there’s a big hole in him.”

“I wish he’d let me tell him how sorry I am,” Jesse replied, “how grateful . . .”

“But he won’t look at you,” Ann interrupted. “It’s not because he resents you. He’s afraid.”

“Of my face?”

“Your face terrifies him. Part of him is afraid he’ll see Robby in your eyes. The rest of him is afraid he won’t.”

Jesse called the waiter and gave him cash to cover the bill. He stood, taking Ann’s hand. “Will you tell Rob I had to go? Tell him I’ll always do my best to honor Robby’s memory.”

He let go her hand and turned away, leaving his haunting self-portrait in his wallet and taking the heart of their family away, beneath the vertical scar in his chest.

***

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