A Message

He slowly knelt down in the long grasses of the back meadow.  He had to move slowly since his old knees would not tolerate random, thoughtless movement.  For a moment he contemplated falling forward, spreading himself full length, arms outstretched onto the sun-warmed ground, but it was far enough into summer that he’d probably be inviting several crawling things into the folds of his clothing.  He berated himself inwardly.  Why did he even worry about such things anymore?  Frannie was dead; he was a widower, a leftover, half of a whole, a lost soul who had never quite learned to fill a day by himself once he’d retired.  Where had he put his shotgun?  Maybe it was time to end it all.  Why not?

Something crinkled in the pocket of his baggy jeans.  A piece of paper.  He pulled it out.

53 responses to “A Message

  1. Frannie had left he a message.
    “Please go on I know I will be hard but you can do it”.
    He got up and returned to the home they shared. Every room he went into spoke of her. He could hear Frannie telling him to get a cup of tea,

    “Tea would be good right now dear, why not try and figure out what you will do now”.

    While thinking how he would go on . He could feel her presence helping him cope with the emptiness of the house. Feeling like he could go on knowing it will take a while he started to plan.

  2. Something crinkled in the pocket of his baggy jeans. A piece of paper. He pulled it out.

    Ah, yes. This morning’s letter from the eighty-seventh publisher rejecting his novel.

    • Get the shotgun! No wait. There was another piece of paper in his pocket. He pulled it out. One of Frannie’s old grocery lists.

      Maybe he could eat himself to death and use his manuscript for target practice. Pizza rolls, steak, baked potato with sour cream and butter, chocolate bars, full fat ice cream, beer. A gluttonous picnic and a bit of gun play. Might improve the plot with a couple of bullet holes.

      • Cheryl aka Shaddy

        All that food might just kill him quicker than a bullet! (I love your sense of humor, Ann).

    • Talk about having a BAD DAY. Maybe the shotgun should be his best friend. Very creative and witty, as is your custom.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      It’s hard to think of anything encouraging to say to this writer. On second thought, if his wife had a life insurance policy, he can afford to self-publish.

  3. galelikethewind

    (Note, in my original, Mike’s letter is in larger font. It does not translate here for some reason. Please use your imagination)

    Something crinkled in the pocket of his baggy jeans. A piece of paper. He pulled it out. It was a letter from his son Michael that he had forgotten all about. It was so unlike him to be so forgetful. He used to be the responsible one in his family. Frannie had always relied on him to take care of the bills, and to make doctor appointments, and so on.
    Ralph slowly extracted the one page letter from the small envelope. His arthritic fingers were as stiff as burlwood, and made even simple tasks into painful chores. He rolled to his right so as to place the letter in a square of sunlight on the soft grass. With Macular Degeneration slowly taking a little more of his central vision each day, he needed direct sunlight to read anymore. He saw that Mike had used his computer to type up the letter in a large font for him:

    Dear Dad,
    I cannot express how difficult it was for me to write this letter to you, especially after all you have been through with Mom in the last two months. But I don’t know who else to turn to.
    At my FAA physical this week, I discovered that I have a rapid form of Macular Degeneration, and my days as an air traffic controller are over. I was furloughed immediately. I have two months of severance pay coming, but do not know what I will do after that. I haven’t even told Maggie and the kids yet.
    I need you, Dad. Please give me a call when you get this letter. I am at my wits end.

    Ralph saw his son’s familiar scrawl of a signature at the bottom of the page. He rolled over onto his back, and tugged at the Iphone in his shirt pocket. He pushed down on the large home button with his gnarled index finger and waited to hear the familiar two quick beeps. His lovely grandaughter Jennifer, watching him struggle with his phone last month, programmed each of his eight contacts with simple names, and showed him how to make voice activated calls. Ralph still marveled at the technology that had mushroomed in the last decade.
    “Call Mike Cell!” said Ralph in his loudest voice.
    “Calling Mike Cell.” answered Siri in her haughty computer articulation. After two rings, Ralph heard his son answer.
    “Hi Dad, thanks for getting back to me. Sorry to bother you with this, but you are the only one I can turn to.”
    “You got time to meet for breakfast tomorrow?” asked Ralph.
    “You bet. Marston’s at 8?” said Mike, with a smile in his voice for the first time in weeks.
    “See you there. And don’t worry,son, together we can work this thing out.”
    Ralph, ended the call, slowly got to his feet, and turned for home. He had to wipe the tears away so he could see and not trip as he moved along the uneven path.

    • you brought tears to my eyes. good story line.
      they can help each other.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      This reminds me of the song, People Who Need People. They’re the luckiest people in the world.

      Your take on this prompt is a fine reminder of the invaluable human need to be needed. Thanks for the wisdom your words have expressed.

    • Your piece touched me. Shaddy and PB have summed it up. Well done.

    • Aw. Now I have to get my Kleenex. It is a well known fact that I am a pushover for this kind of tale. Seems like we never know what is going to happen next, so suicide ends up being a dumb way out.
      P.S. Loved the burl wood comparison. Perfect!

  4. Oh my goodness Gale, this one reached right in and grabbed my heart. Life consists, in large part, in our need to be needed, and you have illustrated that point with expertise and beauty. Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness.

  5. The note was written on stationery which had a header of:
    Your Honey Do List
    the note read;

    don’t forget to get the blades sharpened for the mower, we just can’t wait another week or we will need to invest in either a goat herd or flamethrower.

    Get the dry cleaning before 11:30, they close at noon.

    Were ARE going to church tomorrow…GET A HAIR CUT !

    I’ve left a tuna casserole in the freezer for your dinner. Take the lid off, defrost in microwave for 90 seconds, then heat on full power for a minute. DO NOT JUST SIT YOURSELF DOWN IN FRONT OF THE TV AND EAT CHIPS AND DIP FOLLOWED BY ICE CREAM. That is not dinner. You can do this, I have seen you use the microwave for popcorn, so I know you have mastered the buttons.

    If you need any further instructions regarding the tuna, call me at Margarets. I love you, but I swear you’d be lost without me my dear.

    • galelikethewind

      You are pretty adept at tugging the heart strings yourself! (Tears)
      Thanks for your compliment.

    • Straight to the heart! Very true to life. I can see his eyes tearing up, feel his throat tightening, and his sobs turning into laughter as he realizes she was always right, and oh, how he misses her.

    • sounds like the notes I leave my husband. if the cookie jar is empty he thinks the rest of the house is too.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      He’s got a challenge ahead. With a wife like Frannie, he’s been spoiled. Thanks, Peanut, for the sweet story.

    • Get the shotgun! Frannie just gave him confirmation.

      On the other hand, maybe this will make him annoyed enough to get up and throw the casserole through the front window. He’s not dead yet!

  6. He pulled it out. An empty condom wrapper. AN EMPTY CONDOM WRAPPER? He dug around some more. In another pocket he retrieved a cherry Chapstick. What the heck. These weren’t his things. He stood, straightening his bent old body. He twisted around as best he could to get a good look at his jeans. He thought they had fit a little too big. A smile crossed his face. Son of a gun, that little shyster, Dillon. He had come to pick up the old man’s laundry earlier in the week and brought it back all clean and fresh. Apparently he had mixed in his jeans with his grandpa’s. He chuckled to himself thinking of days gone by of his own youth and silenty wished Dillon good luck. But he’d have to do the right thing and give Dillon ‘the talk’ next time he saw him. Tell him as his father told him a half century or more before, ‘if you play with fire you’re gonna get burned.’ He tucked the wrapper and Chapstick back in his pockets and shuffled back toward the house, a new man now. A man with purpose.

  7. He recognized the handwriting, but it seemed foreign, he could not understand it. His eyes drifted over phrases; “I have to see you…,” “My husband won’t be home…” Slowly the words came into focus. The final nail was driven when he read the closing, “Love you, Frannie.” It was then that he realized these were not his jeans, they were too baggy. The pieces to a puzzle methodically found their place in his mind, as they displaced his grief. His attention turned again to the shotgun.

    • galelikethewind

      nice turn of events, Waldo. Really like your last line.Old Frannie is taking a beating here.

    • Waldo, please continue this. Who belongs to those jeans? And take that shotgun away from him before he hurts someone.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      I don’t have to worry about the widower anymore but woe to Frannie’s lover. Nice work, Waldo.

    • Hey Mr. Waldo. Where you been?

      On the other hand, instead of the shotgun, suddenly he’s free. He doesn’t have to carry quite so much grief. Things have actually been over for a long time. This is one more door, softly closing behind him, leaving him facing a new day. Time to check the bank balance and surf Travelocity.

      I guess I can’t help playing with everyone’s plot!

  8. I’ve been gone a second weekend in a row but while driving developed a concept for this current prompt. Hope to have it knocked out tomorrow.

    In the meantime, here’s a bit of flash that has been accepted at another place. Yes, blatant self-promotion…


    • galelikethewind

      A ton of horrible imagery, and a deep story in so few words. You deserve the kudos. I am going to work on some flash fiction myself. What are the parameters you are working under with a piece like that? Brava.

      • Thank you Gale. Go to the home page there, there are a couple of links WHAT IS FLASH FICTION and HOW TO WRITE FLASH FICITON. Might give you the boost you need. I love the style, and realize it is too abrupt for some. “Damn the torpedos…”

  9. galelikethewind

    Q: Are my submissions too long for these challenges? I tend to get carried away when the muse grabs my grubby old fingers as they pound away at my cheap computer keyboard.

    • Gale, if you go to the web pages of the flash fiction sites, they will give you the Writers Guidelines which usually stipulate the maximum word count for pieces that they accept. I think your work is most fitting for these venues. Go for it !

    • A. You’re worrying too much, Gale.

  10. I used the idea as a prompt for a different story.
    . . . .


    I’m looking at the notes she’S left over the weeks which are now stuck to the inside of my closet door. In chronological order. Mostly yellow post-its smattered with the occasional orange. None are blue. She thinks I just throw them away when I get them, like so much forgotten flotsam of our marrieag. But I keep each one. Reminders.


    She works nights. I find somewhere to hide during the day. We are ships passing in the dusk, contact made only through her notes. Her to me. I don’t leave notes. Or talk.


    It took a while for me to come to grips with the reality of our financial situation.


    And longer to come to grips with my addiction to alcohol.


    It’s been 6 weeks of white knuckle dry time without a drop of whiskey or one cold beer.


    At age 66 I should be sitting on my porch, sipping a brew, enjoying retirement with her.


    Instead I took early retirement about ten years ago when I lost my job due to my drinking.


    Lost my self respect. My incentive. My will to go on.


    I flip the light switch. Nothing. Looks like we missed our deadline.


    I’m standing at my dresser as dust motes drift across the sunlight illuminating the room. I’m back from the interview. They could see it in my eyes. My defeat. Maybe I should have worn a tie. Or shined my shoes. It didn’t matter.

    I pull my wallet from my back pocket and open it. No use looking where the folding green goes. None there for a long time. I take out my driver’s license and look at my picture. I’m smiling in it. Haven’t done that in a while. I check the date, expired for 6 months. Never got the bucks to get it renewed. I tape it to the door in line with the notes.

    I look again. There’s a three-number scratch-off lottery ticket. It cost a buck a couple months ago. I keep playing the same three numbers each week, or when I have a dollar. Four quarters. It’s bound to hit I keep telling myself. It doesn’t. I tape it next to the driver’s license.

    I put my wallet on my dresser, nest to the brown bag I came in with, and pull my spare change from my left pocket. Two dimes and a penny. Not even a quarter’s worth. I set them on my dresser.

    I pull the thirty-eight from the bag. It’s a revolver. I pawned my wedding band and my dad’s pocket watch that was his dad’s. I have no kids. What do I need the watch for?

    I take two twenties and a ten out of the bag, the change from my pawn. I tape it next to my lottery ticket. Maybe she’ll have better luck than me.

    The thirty eight is a police special, maybe 20, 25-years old. I bought it cheap, no one wants them anymore. I release the hammer and give the wheel a spin. Vanna, I would like to buy a vowel. How about a big “O” in the side of my head. I’m ready to solve the puzzle.

    I reach into my right pocket out of habit. I feel a small piece of paper with my fingers. Damn. She left a note in my pocket as well.

    I pull it out and look at the message. It makes me smile.



    Copyright 2013 Jeff Switt

    • galelikethewind

      Outside the box as usual. Nice way to reveal a lifetime together with Post-its.
      Thanks for info on Flash.
      FYI 67 looks young from my perch.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      You hooked me with this one right from the start. I especially liked: “…give the wheel a spin. Vanna, I would like to buy a vowel. How about a big “O” in the side of my head. I’m ready to solve the puzzle.”

  11. Cheryl aka Shaddy

    Something crinkled in the pocket of his baggy jeans. A piece of paper. He pulled it out. It was the Levis 560 Comfort Fit Jeans paper label he’d ripped off his waistband that morning.

    After he’d dragged himself out of bed earlier in the day, he’d realized all of his pants were in a mound with other dirty clothes on the laundry room floor. He’d stared into his closet. Maybe I should crawl back into bed, he’d thought. His eyes had half-heartedly scanned the empty hangers. He’d turned away but not before he’d seen the jeans his grandson, Jason, had given him for Christmas. He’d wrenched them off the hangar and jerked them on. The Levi label had scratched his back and he’d reached around, torn if off and crammed it into his pocket.

    On his knees in the long grass, Clint recalled Jason’s comments to him during the holiday dinner.

    “We should go fishing together when the ice goes out, Grandpa. I know some good spots on Pearl Lake. I snagged a 32 inch Northern there last summer.” Jason’s eyes had sparkled as he spoke. Clint’s heart warmed as he recalled the moment. He stared at the Levi label and before he knew it, he was on his feet.

    The steps of the porch creaked and Clint’s knees cracked as he went in the back door. “Jason. It’s Gramps. I’m ready to go fishing anytime you’ll have me.” After the phone call, Clint went back outside and into the garage. He spent the rest of the day sorting through his tackle box. To his amazement, he heard himself whistling and excited, looking forward to Saturday.

    • Shaddy, loved how the label had initially been an irritant on his backside, but now was a force for good. It rained here all day and when I stepped out to walk my puppy, it smelled like worms….I was instantly thrown back to the days of fishing with my Grandpa…nice memory and very nice writing my friend..

      • Cheryl aka Shaddy

        I always love your comments. I wish I could do as well. You read very thoroughly and always “get it.” Thank you.

  12. There in her eight year old hand writing was a note from his granddaughter, Ella Rose. “Pawpaw, I no you miss Granny, I sure do. I use to call her and talk, can I call you too? Signed Ella Rose.”

    Tears rose to his eyes, not only because his love Frannie was gone, but because he hadn’t been the loving one he should have been to that bubbly, talkative granddaughter. He would love her now like never before, after all, he had to love her for two. He stood up, dusted off the seat of his pants, and with determination in his step he headed for the garage, If he hurried, he could pick her up at school, after all, sharing a strawberry ice cream sundae together could sure make the soul feel better

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