The last of the logs crackled in the fireplace. A bone-piercing chill steadily embraced the once warm and inviting front room. On the coffee table a bottle of our favourite cheap red wine was missing only one large glass, the take-away pizza less than half eaten.
This was supposed to have been our chance to talk, to patch things over – perhaps our last chance. He should have been here well before eight, been off the roads long before the storm passed across the valley floor.
I had red wine and pizza while waiting that night too, and every year since.
Susie woke with a start. It wasn’t the first time, and for sure, wouldn’t be the last.
‘She’s my daughter, my kid, mine, mine!’
The defiant words of her father as he was dragged away remained as fresh as ever. The smell of stale beer and nicotine somehow still in her nostrils. She’d never forget the pain he caused her. The pain which will stay with her forever, even in sleep.
From the cot below the window, her own daughter gurgled and threatened to cry before falling silent once more. Beside her Jimmy snored. Outside another dawn began to break.
These words form this my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.
Most days, the twisting lane down to Hennigan’s farm lay silent. Only the rumble of Frank’s rusty tractor occasionally besmirched the rural hush. In summers though, desperately needed visitors would weave their way down the lane to buy the farm’s prize asset, Hennigan cider. There hadn’t been nearly enough visitors this summer, or last, and the farm was in trouble.
From her kitchen, Mary Hennigan peered out between autumn raindrops towards the barn. Frank’s Labrador had been barking, and now he’d started to howl. Buttoning up her raincoat, Mary set out for the barn, cursing both Frank and his stupid dog on the way.
I’d been up here once before, back when our father had worked on the building’s maintenance crew. On that sticky summer’s day my brothers and I believed we could see the whole world, even if it was really only west New Jersey. Thirty years later I look down and watch the rush-hour traffic backing up on Riverview Drive. A sudden, biting wind ruffles my hair, nips at my tears. I look up briefly to catch a cascade of coloured lights twinkling in the windows of apartments across the street. Within my coat pocket an unanswered phone continues to ring.
The small jazz club off 3rd and Lafayette was Duane’s second home. The unmistakable sound of the big man slapping his beloved doghouse bass filled the air. The chatter amongst the packed crowd was unanimous:
‘Sends tingles down the spine every time’
I needed a smoke. A woman by the door caught my eye.
“There’s nobody better” she said.
I didn’t know her. I didn’t know any of these people, and I doubt Duane did either. Just maybes if they’d shown him this love before now he wouldn’t have gone and done what he done. Maybe then tonight could have been a gig, and not a wake.
As kids we often climbed to the top of Kinney Hill. From there we could see the whole world. Africa, Australia, America, even China, on a really clear day, shimmered mystically on the summer horizon. We had plans to visit them all – to see the world. Sadly, those times of innocence and wonder have long faded to memory. Most of my friends from those days settled down to an ordinary life. An expected, safe existence in the town within which they were born and raised. Me? I decided to see if I could actually seek out these places: those distant lands only those brave and hardy enough to climb the scree scarred slopes of Kinney Hill could usually hope to see.
Twenty years I served in all. Twenty years in lands far from home. In lands far from my wife and children. When I returned for good they were gone and I was once again alone. I still meet up with my friends from childhood. We swap tales, remember the days on Kinney Hill. I tell them of my travels. They all listen with respect and admiration. They then go home to their families; I return to silence, my empty flat and my own thoughts. Thoughts for a better end to my life than this. Thoughts of a better reward for my sacrifice. Thoughts.
Wasn’t feeling inspired today but then this story just came in a flash. Only took five minutes to write i.e. it’s very raw and not overly edited, but it’s what came to mind. Hope you find something to like about it.
Marion looked down from the attic window. This was usually her favourite time of the year: that time when the leaves on the trees surrounding their white, timber house turned slowly from green to subtle peach-red. The dry, summer heat had always bothered Marion since moving south – she’d never really taken to it. The turn to Autumn brought with it a coolness which made her feel more comfortable and content. This year though was different.
Tom, her oldest boy, had moved down to Olsen City after graduation. He now had a wife and a daughter of his own. Marion didn’t see them as much as she’d like, but didn’t make a fuss – she still had Andrew. However, the falling leaves of Autumn would soon carry her youngest away too. His first semester at Lindale University started next week. Around her feet his cases lay packed and ready. On the walls, bare rectangular patches where his favourite posters had once been pinned. Downstairs she could hear Andrew and his father laughing in front of the TV. Marion closed the window and straightened the duvet on her son’s bed. She took a deep breath and wiped away a tear. Motherhood hadn’t prepared her for this.