Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Henry's Last Walk

Henry shuffled along ignoring his surroundings. He'd walked this same path many times in seventy-five years, first as a mailman, then as a freelance photographer for an insurance company. He knew every crack, chip and uprooted slab along the sidewalk over the twelve blocks from Elm to Harvest. He traversed the route today to visit his Emma.

A warped twig in a ratty overcoat, Henry walked slower now. Flat feet and arthritic knees limited his movement. But Emma was all he had left. He needed to take care of her.

Every structure on the street held a story. He passed the Jeffersons. They'd given him a fruitcake every Christmas. Unlike most of his coworkers, he loved fruitcake. The next house belonged to the Victors and their three daughters, who never gave Henry as much as a smile, not even after he found their lost poodle. The rotting Douglas fir perched on the edge of their yard reminded Henry of the fun he and Emma had decorating their Christmas tree. The joyous look in her eyes almost made up for their inability to have children.

The walk to Emma's felt longer today. His legs hurt. His thin socks failed to protect his ankles from the cold. Still, he continued on. She got testy when he arrived late.

Henry walked into the Harvest Senior Home. He passed the reception desk with a nod and headed to Emma's room.

“Hello, Mr. Kemp," the aide said. "Emma's waiting for you.”

Henry struggled to lift a hand in response.

“You decent?” Henry asked at the door. There was no response. He entered the room and walked to the bed, checking on Emma before taking off his coat and hanging it on the hook in the bathroom. Emma would yell at him when she awoke if he put it anyplace else.

Back at the bed, he fluffed her pillow and straightened the covers. He checked her breathing and turned off the TV. He didn't like watching the soaps, and she didn't like watching sports, so they often sat in silence, one or both of them dozing.

He lifted the book off the table, Dr. Zhivago, opened it to where he'd stopped yesterday, and began reading out loud.

“Poor man,” the Head Nurse said to a trainee as they passed outside the room. “His wife passed away eight months ago. She used to reside in that room. Now he tends to Mrs. Cavender, even though she doesn't know he's there. She looks enough like his Emma that he doesn't know the difference.”

“Doesn't the family mind?” the trainee asked.

“She doesn't have any family that we know of. Just like Henry.” The nurse edged the girl along. "Mrs. Cavender won't be with us much longer. I don't know what he'll do then."

At the end of ninety minutes, his usual stay, Henry stood and gathered his things.

"So long, Henry," the Head Nurse said as he passed the desk. "See you tomorrow?"

"I don't think so." He said without looking at her. "Mrs. Cavender doesn't need me anymore."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Love is Blind

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

His accent drew her in. He introduced her to red licorice, gave her rides in a wheelbarrow. She felt different. He was her Fountain of Youth. It didn't matter that he wore tattered clothes, or that he was unshaven and his teeth rotting. She was in love with a man who didn't own a penny.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Borrowed Grave

Harold lumbered past the houses where impatient witches, ghosts, and vampires had visited the previous night seeking treats to fill their bags. His sack contained possessions no one would see but him. Eyes and ears on alert, he continued his journey.

Tonight was the one year plus one day anniversary of his mother's disappearance. The police ceased their investigation after finding no clues. They now considered the woman a runaway.

Harold approached the cemetery, the fresh grave, someone else's resting place, awaiting him. What better place to hide his mother's bones.

Harold grinned.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

She Should Have Stuck With Cooking

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

She was a gourmet cook from Alabama. Here for the Harvest Festival Cookoff. Crimson tide squid was her entry. What I didn’t know was how she stole the antique porcelain vase from Uncle Karl, or if anyone would miss her. Probably should have considered that before I smacked her in the face with the shovel.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Do Unto Others

First published at Flashes in the Dark.

Florence exited the house, opened her umbrella, and spotted the girl standing on the brick walkway. She was nine, maybe ten, tall for her age and dark-skinned, wearing a yellow dress with a green brocade collar. A wicker basket filled with green, yellow and red vegetables hung in the crook of the girl's right arm. Florence stared at the girl. The girl stared back.

"Do I know you?" Florence asked.

She saw the girl's lips move, but heard no sound. She inched forward, her hands choking the umbrella's handle. Florence felt like a trout on a hook being reeled in.

Who is this girl, and what is she doing here? She stopped, not wanting to get any closer. The girl stepped forward, her bare feet floating over the wet sidewalk. Florence heard the voice now, but not the words, until the girl was close enough to touch.

"Any minute now, something will happen," the girl said, emphasizing each syllable.


"Any minute now, something will happen," the girl repeated without emotion.

Florence wanted to run, but her legs wouldn't let her. She looked around, her head snapping from side to side, eyes wide. Three houses down, Mr. Jenkins hobbled out to retrieve the morning paper. Florence opened her mouth to get his attention, felt her throat buzz, but no sound came out. She lifted her hand over her head and waved in quick, short motions. He waved back, a smile on his face, and retreated to his warm, dry house.

The girl leaned closer. "Any minute now, something will happen."

"Will. . .will it be something good?"

"No." The girl continued to stare with large, unblinking eyes.

"Are you sure?" Florence twirled the umbrella, thinking of the pointed end.

The girl's black hair framed her cheeks. The color and starkness of it matched the tone of her voice. "Yes."

"How do you know?"

"I just know." The girl stood, motionless, immune to the pouring rain. "It's your fault. You shouldn't have killed him."

Florence's eyes widened. She put one hand over her open mouth.

"I didn't kill him." She looked at the houses on both sides. "He was old and in pain. He wanted to die. I couldn't do anything more for him." She thought of the hours she'd spent at the patient's side, holding his hand, unable to lessen his pain, her nursing skills good only to a point. "It was the humane thing to do." She wiped a tear from her cheek.

"What about his family?" the girl asked.

"He has no family. He's all alone, except for me."

"You talk as if he's still alive."

Florence's lower lip curled between her teeth.

"None of that matters anyway," the girl said, waving her free hand, as if dismissing the older woman. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

"I didn't want him to suffer anymore."

"It was wrong."

Florence looked away. "He pulled the trigger." The words barely came out.

"With your help."

"I'm sorry."

Florence took a deep breath and panned her eyes back to the girl. Before she could say another word, the girl dropped the basket and raised both hands. Some of the vegetables split apart and lay in pieces on the brick walk. Florence recognized them as the broken pieces of her life.

She gazed at the girl's raised hands and pointed index fingers. Eyes narrowed to two slits, the girl uttered an unintelligible chant.

Florence retreated to the front door. She turned. The girl stood close by, her body shaking. Florence ran up the stairs to the bedroom where he lay. The girl followed. Removing the gun from his hands, Florence aimed at the child and squeezed the trigger. She heard a click but felt no recoil. She tried again with the same result.

The girl's body shook. The chant became louder.

"No," Florence yelled as the gun moved to her temple. Unable to control her actions, she pressed the trigger. This time the gun exploded, and she fell across the old man, her face on his chest. Blood oozed from the wound and mixed with his.

The girl stood in the doorway and waited until Florence stopped breathing, then turned and walked away. Exiting the house, she passed the vegetables and basket, leaving them where they'd fallen.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

The rabbit died. No, not that rabbit. My forever rabbit, my BRF. I called her Precious. She called me Honey. They say love is blind. I only know I am, and Honey was the catalyst that made me want to get up in the morning. Now what do I do?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


In public for the first time since the botched surgery that left her with a cabbage face, Alma held a blue and white umbrella over her head and spun it like a pinwheel to distract all but the most insipid. She approached the maroon Jaguar, the short, pointed screwdriver close to her side.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

A mother. A father. Triplet girls. An apartment better suited for a dollhouse. Worn linen dresses. Shoes with holes. No job. Unemployment. An eviction notice hanging on the door. Little food for their empty bowls.

Still. Jokes. Laughter. Promises and dreams of better days. Songs sung for Auld Lang Syne.