General Flash Fiction posted May 1, 2011

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life's lessons... Flash Fiction

The Bottom Line

by jackiesmuse

Life on our ramshackle farm was harsh for Momma and me; my penny-pinching pa made certain of that.

Momma never asked for much; the old man’s temper was quick and ugly. She had a wish list, sure: a freshly painted house with a white picket fence running around it, a garden in the side yard...
“Only time I’d put money into it,” he’d say when Momma hinted around, “is if I was selling, and that’s not happening any time soon.”
One of the few times I dared stand up to him, he made me lug my toys outside. As I dragged them down the back stairs I got to thinking I might be getting new ones...or maybe some video games.
I plopped GI Joe on top of the pile.
That’s when I saw the red can next to my old man. The bastard told me to stand back, splashed on the gas, struck a match and threw it into my treasures.
He smiled.
I wished him dead as I watched my buddy melt in the flames.
The following spring, Pa'd  just come in from a long day on the back forty when Momma made her plea for a garden. "... I could sell what I grow."
"Ya don't say.” He wiped the grimy sweat from his forehead with his snot rag. " You have everything you need!"
“I know, but...”
“And that kid of yours has three hots and a cot--”
“I’m your kid, too!” I blurted, moving in front of Momma as I eyed the ax in the corner of the kitchen.
“You shut your damn yap.” He swatted me aside like a gnat before I could make a move.
Momma stepped in front of me. “I could plant tomatoes, carrots ... and maybe some  tulips...”
He stood stone-still, arms folded, neck veins bulging while she spilled her guts all over the holey linoleum; I lay in a puddle of pain behind her.
“...roses. American Beauties. Red ones. They’d bring in a goodly sum. Increase that blessed bottom line of yours!"

"Would they now?"

"If you could just make a little plot for me in the side yard I’d--”
"I'll give you a damn plot." He pulled on his cap and slammed out the back door.
The tractor engine roared. A split-second later, the old John Deere was barreling through the side yard, dragging the disc harrow.
Momma ran out screaming, “Fred, no!” as she tried to stop him.
I grabbed the ax and flew down the steps.
The bastard was grinning ear-to-ear as he dug up humungous earth chunks in the side yard.
No, I didn’t kill him--couldn’t do it--but he did choke to death on a crappie bone three days after destroying the yard.
Momma died from pneumonia right after Christmas that same year, without realizing her dreams.
I got the farm and the cash my father had stashed under their mattress.
Nothing changed for damn-near fifteen years. Old habits...
A few months back I painted the house candy-apple red and put up a white picket fence. Mosher Landscape graded the side yard and planted a kickass garden; the farm looks like a million bucks! Momma would've loved it...except for the ‘For Sale by Owner’ sign in the front yard.
The place should bring a pretty penny. My wife and kid don’t want me to sell it “now that it’s what it could have been all along!”
Some people just don’t understand the bottom line.

Flash Fiction Writing Contest contest entry


Bottom Line: The final total of an account, balance sheet, or other financial document.
Thank you Keri Harrish for the picture.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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