Thursday, June 26, 2008

Short, short story

I found this photo on stock.xchng. I thought I'd write something to go with it, just for fun.

Francine sat at her kitchen table, absent-mindedly stirring a cup of tea. A half-eaten slice of toast lay on a plate next to her newspaper.

It was 10:30 in the morning. Still in her nightgown, Francine had finally dragged herself out of bed and made the toast and tea. Even that seemed an enormous effort. When she brought in the newspaper from the porch, she found yesterday's newspaper out there as well. Yesterday she'd only ventured as far as the master bathroom. She'd eaten the rest of a box of crackers that had been left in the bedroom.

She sighed. Since Ray had died, it seemed like such an effort to get dressed and do the normal housework she'd done all her life. Why bother? Most days no one noticed if she made an appearance outside the house.

Glancing at the date on the front of the paper, she was surprised to find it had been 4 months since Ray . . . it still hurt to think of him gone. It was hard to decide. She was surprised it had already been 4 months, but also . . . time had dragged. It seemed like each day lasted forever with no one to fill her days.

Sighing again, Francine forced herself to go back to the bedroom and get dressed. She'd eaten the last slice of bread, and had to drink tea instead of milk when she determined the milk in the fridge has gone sour. It was hard to adjust to buying for one -- almost a whole quart of milk went wasted down the drain of the kitchen sink.

Getting out, even to the grocery store, would be good for her, she knew.

In her bedroom, she opened the window to let in some fresh air. It was a nice day outside, she noticed. Not too hot, but sunny and warm enough that she wouldn't need a jacket. She could hear the little boy next door talking to himself as he played in his back yard.

A few minutes later, as she backed the car down the driveway, she noticed the same little boy watching her through the fence that divided their properties. She smiled and waved at him, and he waved back, and then took a few steps along the fence toward the road as her car kept moving. She could see the wild daisies and black-eyed-susans bend out of his way as he forced himself through the blossoms that came above his knees. The neighbor's yard had several weedy patches now where grass used to grow, and this was one of them. Both of the little boy's parents worked long hours; the father had 2 jobs, trying to make ends meet to provide for their 5 children. The boy was the youngest, several years younger than his next sibling, an unexpected surprise for his parents.

Francine quickly finished her shopping. She noticed several young moms shopping with their children. One of the kids had a small red box of animal crackers dangling from one of his hands, and cookie crumbs smeared across his face. On impulse, she picked up one of the boxes and added it to the other items in her cart.

The little neighbor boy was peering through the fence again when Francine pulled into her driveway. She stopped the car in the driveway and got out, holding the box of animal crackers. The boy's face lit up when she held it out to him.

"What's your name?" she asked him.

"Tom," he said. "Are the cookies for me?"

"Yes, if you would like them," Francine replied.

"Wow, thanks!" said Tom, jumping up and down amidst the wildflowers on his side of the fence.

After pulling her car into the garage, putting her groceries away and making herself a sandwich for lunch, Francine took the magazine she'd purchased at the store out onto the front porch. After reading for a few minutes, she heard a noise at the corner of the house. Looking around, she saw little Tom standing beside the porch, holding his hands behind his back. He had a smile on his face. Then he held out the hand that had been behind his back. He held out a small bouquet of the wildflowers from the other side of the fence.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"Mrs. Ryan," she said. "Are the flowers for me?"

"Yes, if you would like them," he replied.

"Wow, thanks!" said Francine, smiling.

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