General Flash Fiction posted May 3, 2011

This work has reached the exceptional level
Flash Fiction Contest (White Picket Fence)

Saying Goodbye

by Connie P

Charlie ambled to the back of his property and worked the creaky old gate of the white picket fence. Needs paintin', he told himself, as he kicked at the overgrowth holding the gate shut. He thought of his sling-blade, but the heat of the sun bore down and he didn’t have much time, so he just stomped the weeds until he freed the gate.

Sycamore leaves cast a canopy of shade over four stones lined across the back of the fence. Charlie rested on his knee and let the breeze cool his face. When he heard footsteps crossing the yard, he cursed and used his sleeve to wipe the sweat from his brow. He chewed his jaw and let his sleeve mingle the sweat with the tears he’d battled to hold back. While he was at it, he wiped his nose, just in case.

Facing the woods, he glanced to each side of the rocks for something to use as a broom, but all he found was a clump of fescue and a dead limb from the Sycamore. He busied himself clearing the rocks with his hands as his son approached.

“Hey, Dad. What are you doing down here?”

“Nothin’. Ain’t you got stuff to do up at the house?”

The old gate creaked. “No, everything’s just about finished up.” Charlie’s son knelt beside him. “I know this is tough.”

“How would you know?” Charlie snapped. “You been gone thirty years, Jack. You don’t even remember what home was like.”

“Hold on now. Remember that rope swing I used to play on?” Jack pointed to the tree. “The rope broke with me and that stick stuck through my leg. You carried me all the way to the car.”

“Damn near broke my back. You musta’ been twelve or thirteen.”

“I was fourteen, Dad.” He fixed his eyes on the rock Charlie had cleared. “That was the year Ranger died.” He squatted beside his father. “You think I’ve forgotten Ranger?”

“I figured you had. He was a damn good coon dog till you started lettin’ him sleep in the bed with you. Ruined him for huntin’. He got fat and wouldn’t even chase a cat across the yard.”

“Now, wait just a minute.” Jack grinned. “I seem to recall seeing Ranger sprawled out in your bed more than once.”

“He was lonesome. When you’d run off with your friends, he’d whine at the door and then climb up in the bed with me and your momma.”

Jack took his handkerchief from his back pocket and slapped the moss and dirt from the next stone. “Oh, boy …Trixie. What a pain in the ass. Whoever heard of naming a male dog Trixie?”

“Momma thought he was a girl. She wanted a female, didn’t wanna be out numbered like she always was. She wouldn’t change his name … guess that’s where you got your stubborn streak.”

“Yeah, right.”

Charlie took Jack’s handkerchief and cleared the last two stones. “Them two, best mousers there’s ever been.”

“Socks and Friskie.”

“What the hell’s gonna happen to ‘em now, Jackie?” He heaved a sigh and forgot about hiding his tears. “Who’s gonna give a damn if they dig ‘em up or plow ‘em under?”

Jack stood and wiped his face with the back of his hand.

Charlie ranted, “I’ll tell you who … nobody--that’s who.”

“You’re right, but there isn’t anything we can do about it now.” He bent down again and held his father by the shoulders. “We had good times here, but Momma’s gone and you just can’t stay out here by yourself anymore. You’ve going to love your new apartment. You’ll be near the river and there’s the park. You can feed the pigeons.”

“Pigeons? Then what, clean up pigeon shit?”

“No. Someone will do that for you.”

“It’s a halfway house to the worm farm. You know it and I know it.”

“Why are you making this so hard?”

“This place was my life, son. I lost your momma and these little fellers, and ….”

“And what, Dad?”

“And you, Jackie … you.”

“Give the place a chance, will you? I’ll still come by on Thursdays. You can introduce me to your new friends. I’ll kick your ass all over the checker board anytime you feel like taking a beating.”

“Thursdays, huh?

“Like always.”

“You reckon anybody’s gonna pay any mind to this old fence, son?”

“I doubt it.” Jack sucked in the thickest air he’d ever tried to breath. “I’ll be waiting at the house. We need to be going.”

Charlie knelt one last time and studied the names scratched into the stones. “Y’all were the best friends I ever had. Pigeons--hell. Ashes to ashes, boys … ashes to ashes.”

Flash Fiction Writing Contest contest entry


In this flash fiction contest we are challenging writers to write a flash fiction piece that is between 500 and 800 words on the topic provided. The topic is "the white picket fence".
Word count - 788
Grammar errors in the dialect of the characters are intentional.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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