Monday, September 26, 2016

Some Flash Fiction

A Near Miss

A shrill whistle marking the departure of the 6:45 AM train reached his ears in the parking lot, and he knew that it was too late before he took another step. He considered his options. He could get in his car and chug along at a snail’s pace for two hours all the way into Manhattan or he could return home, call his manager, and take the day off.  He was supposed to meet with a client today, but he could call and reschedule. He had been putting in quite a bit of overtime at the office lately and Michelle was taking on a lot of the parental duties, though she never complained. But, his daughter Casey had started kindergarten this year, and he felt guilty that he was not able to pick her up from school at least once.
He called his manager and the client and left messages of regret. Than he called his wife, explained the situation, and told her that he would pick up Casey at school. Suddenly, he felt free as a bird. He would change into his casual clothes, go to the golf range and practice with his new driver for a couple of hours until it was time to pick up Casey. Then he would take her to McDonald’s for a cozy father/daughter lunch.

It was a warm September day. The chill of autumn had not yet descended upon southern New England.  The hills that flanked the golf course were beginning to show variations in color. Here and there, quiet patches of orange and yellow peeked out in amongst the deep forest green. A light breeze kicked up the faint whiff of wood smoke from a nearby chimney.
Armed with a bucket of balls, he headed for the green.  He pulled out his driver, teed his ball and swung. But, as relaxed as he was, hitting the balls in a straight line proved to be a challenge. He switched to a wood and tried a few more shots, but missed his mark every time. His frustration was mounting. Nothing was working. Finally, he gave up and headed to the clubhouse for a cold drink.

As he stepped through the door, he felt rather than saw a shift in atmosphere. Normally, the clubhouse was buzzing with lively conversation, but today, a stale quiet hung in the air. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the flat screen TV on the wall of the bar. Captions flashed the news. A jet airliner had just struck one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. He felt his heart jump in his chest.  Thick gray smoke was pouring down from the top of the building like vapor from a laboratory beaker.

He pulled his cell phone out and punched the number to his office. There was no answer. His manager’s phone went directly to voicemail. He looked up at the screen. Both buildings were now on fire. The broadcasters were interjecting their speculations on the catastrophe.
Unable to look away, he watched the news reports in disbelief. Hot tears began to stream down his face. He was still crying when he picked up Casey at school two hours later. She looked up at him with her large brown eyes and asked him why he was crying.

He tried to recount the event to her in a reassuring manner, but he couldn’t get all of the words out. How does one explain to a five-year-old that her father’s colleagues were probably all dead and that her father would be dead if not for his missing the morning train? Casey put her arms around him and hugged him. 
“I’m glad you missed the train, Daddy. I love you,” she said.

He pulled her close and felt her little heart beating. “I love you too, darling,” he said in a broken voice, and thought with not a little guilt that his life had suddenly taken on new meaning.

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