General Fiction posted January 2, 2020

This work has reached the exceptional level
Vision of the dead

Final Call

by Coco Jane

Flash Fiction Writing Contest Contest Winner 

Brad hadn’t been to the Bullfrog Tavern in exactly a year.  He sat on the stool where his brother Martin had sat that night, twenty-one years ago, and ordered whiskey. He preferred beer, but Martin liked whiskey, so Brad drank it for him.  
A middle-aged man, wearing a button-down shirt over jeans, slid into the next stool and ordered O’Doul’s.   He nodded at Brad.   
Brad just wanted to drink to the memory of Martin—smart, fun, loyal.  Killed by a drunken motorcyclist outside this tavern. Brad still kept one lens of Martin’s broken glasses in his dresser drawer. 
“Nice night,” said the man. 
“I’ve seen nicer,” answered Brad.  He sipped his whiskey. 
“Nice for a bike ride.”
Brad eyed him in the mirror behind the bar.  The reflection was . . . different.  Young and slim, wearing a blue polo shirt—like one Martin had owned. He wore rimless glasses and smiled gently. 
The man raised his beer.  “Here’s to what’s missing.”   
“Yeah,” answered Brad.  “Life hasn’t been the same since—”  
He stopped.  No spilling his guts to some stranger. He raised his glass to the mirror and drank. The whiskey buzz was coming fast. 
“Tell me about it,” the man said.  “You lose that one thing, and your insides are gone.” 
“You never get over it,” mused Brad. “You keep reliving it, wishing you could turn back time and make it not happen.”  
“But it did happen, and you gotta figure out how to go on. New normal.”  
The young man in the mirror just smiled. 
“Normal, hell,” said Brad. “Normal is hell. You drink to feel normal.  But nothing works--wife, job, daughters.  Even naming one of them after him doesn’t fill that empty space where he oughtta be.”
“Makes you grateful for what you do have,” said the man. “Or did have.  I had freedom once.  Lost it.  Twenty in the slammer.  Now I’m out.  I’m grateful for that.” 
“Grateful, hell.  For watching your brother get clobbered?  Blood everywhere and—“ He’d said too much.  Damned whiskey.
The man drained his beer.  “I used to come here.  Been away for twenty years, wanted to come back once.  This is the last time for me.  How about you?”
“No chance.  Hell, I would give anything to see Martin one more time.  To tell him I haven’t forgotten, that I love him. I’m here for life.” Brad drained his glass.
“Me too. For your life, Brad. And for Martin.”  
“How do you know me?  How do you know about that?”  Brad stood and faced the man, who nodded at the mirror.  Brad looked again. There was something about the slim build, that damned blue polo shirt, the glasses.
Brad blinked. “Martin?”  
The reflection smiled.  
When Brad turned back, the man was heading out the door.
“Wait!” Brad followed him to the parking lot, where the man mounted his motorcycle and rode slowly away. 
Brad walked back inside.  In the mirror, the young man lifted a glass of whiskey and smiled.  


Flash Fiction Writing Contest
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