On Father’s day, Chuck Wendig posted this flash fiction challenge on the terrible minds website:
I’ve been wanting to try short stories/flash fiction, but have been hesitant because I’m not too confident I can tell an interesting story with only 1,000 words. Here’s my first attempt–enjoy.
Out in the Cold
Protected from a blanket of falling snow, Dylon’s absent grasp at the wedding ring long gone, perpetuated the loneliness beneath the underpass. Six long years on the road swam through his empty, drug riddled mind. Well, eight years of lonely travel, but six since his last loved one finally wrote him off with firm regret.
Snowfall in the Mile High City covers cars, trees and roads; more importantly waste, pollution and garbage. The blanket white washes the bad, sending new hope for renewal.
“Sir. Excuse me, sir,” Dylon said to the young man passing by.
Without thinking about it, he reached into his right pocket to confirm the absence of money. He didn’t have to feel the left; he already lost many dimes through the one inch hole in the left pocket of his tattered denim.
“Sir, can you spare any change? I’m trying to make it back to Colorado Springs to get home for Thanksgiving.”
He reached down and picked up the empty gas-can to fuel the illusion.
The passerby surveyed Dylon with one dismissive look. Yes, the gas can seemed believable enough. But the burn holes through the formerly white hoodie, the unkept beard, and the ratty afro gave away the rest of the story.
“Nah, man. I don’t carry any cash. Wish I could help you out.”
“I’m a Veteran, man. You can’t spare anything?”
The passerby snorted. He tried to stifle the fit of laughter that followed to no avail. “Veteran of what? That shit’s tired. If you ain’t a veteran, how you gonna disrespect our troops like that—but if you are—it’s a damn shame you ended up here.”
Dylon’s shoulders slumped, his eyes turned downcast towards the gas can.
“Either way I got nothing for ya.”
Dylon watched the man walk away. Thoughts of his son rushed to his mind. The odds were the passerby was just another stranger; but he took a longer look at men that reminded him of Chris nonetheless. Dylon had to imagine what Chris would have become had he stayed around long enough to watch the promising student-athlete grow to maturity.
Every rejection singed his heart, but complete dismissals from what could be his sons avatar on Thanksgiving eve, made the blow that much harder.
Persistence is key, he thought as he watched the next man in a suit walking his direction.
“Excuse me sir. Little gas money so I can get to my family in Colorado Springs?” His eyes remained steady and engaged on the stranger’s; his upper body still but not shaking. Every drug that’s ever sped through his bloodstream tried to force his hands to shake, but he controlled all instincts. Years on the street developed his already proficient lying ability.
The man looked up into Dylon’s sad and pleading eyes. One look told him he was looking at truth.
He wavered when his eyes met back up with Dylon’s, after fetching his wallet from his back pocket.
Was that a smile? Was that brightness shining from the homeless man’s aura? He shook his head, to clense his mind of the thoughts.
“You know, I do have a little bit,” the man said.
“Thank you, sir. My family thanks you from the Springs.”
The man reached out his hand to Dylon, who grabbed the money without breaking the all-important grateful eye contact.
“God bless you,” he added for good measure.
While shaking hands, he noticed the stranger’s eyes dim. They didn’t drop or falter, but they dimmed. It was as if the life force rushed out of the man all at once. Dylon knew it when he saw it. It was pity; one thing more disheartening than all out rejection. Dylon studied the man’s back as he disappeared into the foggy snowy haze.
When he finally looked down at the denomination of dead president resting in his hand, his heart sped up. It wasn’t a president at all. Benjamin Franklin met his gaze. The light shining off of the bill reflected in Dylon’s eyes, turning them into a hue of brownish green.
During his journey to Colfax and Quebec, his mind returned to his son.
What’s become of Chris? Will he be home for Thanksgiving? Will he forgive my addiction? It’s a ten dollar cab ride from here to Five Points—would he wanna see me?
The thoughts jumbled his brain; perhaps even more than the twice-cut cocaine that he consumed to avoid withdrawal.
Withdrawal, he thought, with a sudden terror speeding up his heart once more. He remembered his destination.
He arrived at the corner, and walked up to the scary man wearing red from head to toe.
“How you doing brother?” Dylon asked.
“What’s good with you pops? What can I do for you?”
Thoughts of Chris rushed back into his mind.
Don’t do this. Go see your family. Leave now.
He heard a distant, muffled voice mutter something, but his mind continued to race.
What the fuck are you waiting on? Get out of here, Dylon. It’s not worth it.
“Yo pops! What the hell is wrong with you? Get something or get on. Thirty a gram.”
The man in red didn’t think Dylon would answer; he didn’t even think Dylon was there—at least not mentally.
Dylon’s thousand yard stare looked through the man in front of him. He snapped out of the vocal paralysis when one word made it into his thought process.
After the transaction, Dylon trudged through the snow once more, withdrawing from the protective awning the dealer stood under.
The thick white blanket continued to fall on the garbage that plagued The Mile High City.