Here’s another flash fiction prompt from terribleminds.com that I participated in:
A unopened envelope
A Rocking chair
A road sign
A child’s toy
Breaking a Seal
“Are you talking about the Bryant’s place?”
“It’s only about three more miles up University, then a left on Pine. It’s the last house on the street. If you drive off the road, you’ve went too far,” the clerk said.
Erik looked down at his phone’s Google Maps image. “Are you sure, man? It says it’s right around here.”
The clerk shook his head. “There’s not but three hundred people in this town. I know where most of ‘em are. The Bryant’s house is on Pine. If you don’t find it come back and hit me in the face.” The clerk grinned at this.
Erik countered the clerk’s sick sense of humor with a grimace. “Whatever you say. I still want this coke, though.”
Erik paid the clerk and walked back to his car. His nine-hundred and fifteen mile journey was coming to a close, yet there was still no relief. His anxiety rose the closer the blue triangle indicator got to New Cannon, Texas. A first time meeting with a father who abandoned you would do just that, he figured.
He put the car in drive and started on the last four miles of his journey.
When Erik reached the sign that said Pine, he stopped in the middle of the road. Normally he’d worry about getting flipped off by a mob of traffic for doing this, but in New Cannon, he figured he’d have a better chance of coming across an angry coyote.
Staring at the small green sign that said Pine Rd., Erik couldn’t help but think about the past. His mind went to the memory of his fifth birthday. His mom did her best to set the timer on the camera in order to get a shot with him as he blew out the candles. Time and time again she couldn’t get back to the cake in time to catch the magical moment. When the candles finally burned all of the way down, she gave up and cried. It took Erik twenty years to figure out that she didn’t shed tears of frustration on that muggy August evening. She cried because there was nobody else there to hold the camera. She cried because raising a boy by herself was so damn hard.
For some reason, that image stuck with Erik for years. After thirty seconds or so of staring at the sign that said Pine Rd., he took a left to face his past.
Sitting in the passenger’s seat was a letter that was near and dear to Erik’s heart; a letter he wrote his father in college. It was a heart felt message accompanied with his Senior college football picture. Erik remembered the joy of sending it USPS priority, knowing he’d finally open the first lines of communication with the man who forgot he existed. When the letter came back several weeks later, he was devastated to the point that he couldn’t bear to open it. He remembered staring at the yellow ‘return to sender’ label that rested just below the lime green delivery confirmation. He splurged on the confirmation because he just wanted to know that his father did, in fact, receive it. To Erik, that green label seemed to be the saddest memory of his absent father.
Well I’m hand delivering it today, he thought.
Sure enough, the mailbox claimed the house belonged to the Bryant’s.
The Bryant’s, he mused. Finally, a place that has my last name on it. I’m home.
Erik walked up the white steps, past a rocking chair with a stuffed animal sitting on it. He smiled, realizing the stuffed animal likely belonged to one of his nieces or nephews. According to the ancestry website, he had four brothers and sisters that he had never met. Only for a second did he stop to wonder why he was the only one that his father abandoned.
He knocked on the door. Within fifteen seconds, he came face to face with the father he’d never seen.
“Can I help you, son?” Frank Bryant asked.
Did he just call me son? As in his son? He wondered.
When he saw the puzzled look on his father’s face, he thought not.
“I, uh—” Erik broke off. After twenty-nine years and a drive across the country, he had no idea what to say.
He composed himself. “I found this package. I hear it belongs to you.” He handed Frank the package face down. For whatever reason, Erik didn’t want to see his reaction when reading who it was from.
Frank looked down at the package with a dubious grimace on his face. “Where’d you get this?”
“I found it. It looks old. I’m gonna take off, I have my wife waiting on me at home.” Erik didn’t know why he was afraid of sticking around for a discussion with his father, but he was. When Erik came face to face with Frank, his father seemed like less of a mythical figure and more like an irresponsible asshole. For the first time in his life, he cringed at the idea of getting to know the man.
“Alright—what’s your name, son.”
“The name is Erik Bradley,” he said, and stuck out his hand to shake with his father.
You don’t deserve to have my last name, pops.
“Well, nice to meet you sir—I better get going.”
Erik turned toward his car. More importantly, he turned away from his past for the first time in his life.