Taking a minute to share my short story in the required maximum 700 word count, published in The Florida Writer, Summer 2014/Volume 8, Number 2.
The Flash Fiction genre seems to have a problem with its weight. I’ve seen requirements as slim as 50 words, and as obese as 1,000 words. And for short, nothing beats the one attributed to Hemingway: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”
If you come up with one, let’s hear it!
A quick lesson: something like this can spark a longer story, a variation in setting, maybe a series of lessons learned by the characters involved.
So, here’s a middle-weight with a pretty good BMI. Enjoy!
IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
by Virginia Nygard
I strode through the sand and tufts of grass where jabbering neighbors clustered outside the white picket fence. The Cape cottage, white with green shutters, gleamed in the sun like a jewel. It looked no different than I remembered from childhood visits.
Trotting up the front steps, I flashed my badge at the young officer. “Where are they?”
“Upstairs, detective,” she said, pushing the door open.
I paused in the hall to rub the newel post as I had every time I visited here when we moved in next door—the year I started kindergarten. I jogged up the stairs thinking that nothing about Abe and Essie Pinkerton should surprise me. Not even this, but it did. They were known to be at home but not responding to neighbors’ calls. Someone finally phoned 911.
Growing up next door to the feisty Yankees, I’d learned much about life while observing their raucous relationship. It was probably part of the reason I waited until I was forty to get married—once I’d found the right girl.
Abe and Essie were oil and water. Each had firm opinions, often clearly and loudly enough expressed for Mom and Dad to understand through our kitchen window. Most of it I paid no attention to, but whenever Essie got to shouting about hussies, and Abe’s denials rose an octave higher, Mom shooed me off to my room. Hussies was the first word I looked up in the dictionary—when I learned how to use one.
Not blessed with children of their own, they doted on me. To my parents, I was always Daniel. To the Pinkertons, I was Danny-boy. When Essie baked sugar cookies, she knew I’d appear at their back door as soon as the scent tickled my nose. Eventually, I figured out I’d become their little flag of truce. Quiet reigned during cookie time with them. But when I shut the door on my way out, their voices escalated in a rowdy ruckus over kitchen cleanup.
Reaching the second floor, I spoke with the officer in charge and peered into the tiny bedroom where EMTs scuttled about and murmured. Only two figures were silent. One in the bed, and one in the rocking chair. The stench of decay owned the room.
Rocking, staring into space, Abe ignored the bustle around him. I’d lost touch with the two of them since my marriage, and this frail, vulnerable old man bore little resemblance to the wiry, tough Yankee I remembered.
“What happened, Abe?” I asked softly. His red-rimmed stare seemed to peel back the age that years had layered on my looks.
“Danny-boy. We’ve missed you.” He glanced at the bed. The EMTs zipped up the body bag containing Essie’s remains and removed it on a stretcher. He looked back at me with watery, sunken eyes. “Woke up a couple of days ago, and found her wide-eyed and stone cold.”
“I’m sorry, Abe.”
“Mm-hm. Me, too. Love never got lost in the bellowing, Danny-boy.” He focused on me again. “When I knew she’d passed, a sound worse than our blasted bickering swallowed me.” His eyes shimmered. “Silence. The only sound this old coot can’t live with, now Essie’s gone. It’s like the closing of my own coffin lid.”
I patted his shoulder. I didn’t have the heart to tell Abe I didn’t see silence that way. My wife was born deaf, and though she scolds me in sign language, whichever of us survives will always treasure the love that flourished in the sound of silence.