Monday, July 2, 2012

Are You Ever Coming Home?

 An admittedly long dry spell since last I posted. What can I say? Stuff happens. Here is a sample of what has come to be known as flash fiction, usually 500 words or less, and often done in response to a writing challenge. In this case the challenge was to create a complete story starting with the first line, which is given. With economies world wide still in the doldrums, this is what I came up with, and I hope you enjoy my effort. Fair warning, this is not for young children.

Are you ever coming home?
 One question; scrawled awkwardly in pencil.  Off to the right, in neat script, was my name and current address. A stamp adorned the top right corner.  The postcard felt heavy, like the words had been carved in granite and delivered on the slab instead of this tiny slip of stiff paper.  The picture on the reverse was of the Grand Canyon taken from the south rim.
She must have chosen the card.  A blunt statement about just how small I was in the universe.  A black hole would have been better, but where would she find it on the card rack at Wal-Mart?
Are you ever coming home?  I stared at the sentence.  Was it hopeful, or indignant, or resigned?  No way to tell for sure.  Hopeful, I suppose, in having been sent.  Not indignant.  The boy wouldn't be indignant, like his mother.  Not resigned yet either, I haven't been gone that long.  Who am I kidding?  Its twenty-seven days.  I glanced at my watch; plus fourteen hours and twenty-three minutes.
In two days the mortgage was due.  I didn't have it—wouldn't have it.  Since the plant closed down eight months ago our savings got wiped out and our credit cards maxed.  Bad economy, they said.  Nobody can afford our goods, they said.  We'll help you get another job, they said.  Another job meant slinging refried beans and ground meat into greasy taco shells.  No bennies, no vacation, no future and not nearly enough to care for my family. 
When I went there years ago, the Grand Canyon gave me vertigo.  An abyss sprawling before me so immense I couldn't find a frame of reference in my mind.  I felt like that again, staring at the card in my hand.
Are you ever coming home?  Just a month I said.  I'll take a month and find another job.  Maybe they're hiring in Spring Hill.  I'll check around and see what I can find.  This is the last payment I can make on my old life insurance policy without a job.  Here's two hundred bucks I borrowed from Stan for food.  Mom and Pop sent enough to cover the car payment and some gas.  Just give me a month to work something out.  I'll get something, I promise.
Use the internet she said.  Don't leave me alone with the boy.  I need your help. Don't go, you can't help that way.  But I went anyway.  I would get something for sure, I would figure out a way.
I sat on the edge of the bed and reached into the drawer of the worn bedside hotel nightstand and removed the frayed Gideon Bible and my Special.  I read a few chapters in the Bible.  I am not the prodigal son returned.
            Are you ever coming home?  I placed the insurance policy in the Bible and put it on the night stand, placed the Special against my temple.
            No, son.  I'm not coming home.  But I am sending money.

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