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They all gathered to hear the letter from their long-missing relative, William, Junior. His mother Betty called to her sisters from her alley window, who called their children from slumber, and they all met on the community patio outside of Betty’s home to hear the news. Frank, a second cousin, had secretly been taking bets that young Will had been killed in a bar fight, while his sister Evangeline insisted he had joined the Peace Corps and was saving the world.
Betty didn’t even change from the robe she wore around the house; as a matter of fact, she hadn’t even bothered putting on shoes or slippers. The others, some of whom took the time to get dressed in their day suits, some still in pajamas, all congregated around the family matriarch, whispering at the possibilities of what the letter might contain as she carefully pulled at the envelope. The markings on the postage said California, which was quite a long trip from William’s hometown of Coney Island.
They were waiting for Will’s youngest brother, Peter, who had run into town to get his father, only to have the elder William return before him. Moments later, Peter ran up to the group, panting. Nobody bothered to ask what had taken him so long as Betty pulled the three pages out and started skimming the letter before her public reading. A single tear ran down her cheek as she cleared her throat and prepared to read aloud.
Another piece of flash fiction typed onto a vintage photograph using my antique typewriter. And of course, my shameless plug for the book.
My first new flash fiction on a vintage photograph using an antique typewriter in months. If you like it, you can order Capturing a Moment, a collection of similar works or order an original by visiting my Etsy.
As far back as I can remember my grandmother reminisced about her days on stage back in the Vaudeville era. Her and my grandfather were well known, in New York at least, as performers of music, dance, and probably even more so, comedy.
Grandfather, before he died, swore he’d made up Groucho’s famous “Outside of a book, a dog is a man’s best friend. Inside a dog it’s too dark to read,” line back then on the stage. It’s true, Groucho did attend one of their performances with his brothers, but regardless, there’s no way to prove that claim.
When I was little I would spend summers at my grandparents’ home in suburban New York, a small property that working the stage had paid for. Mother considered it an extended visit, a vacation. I loved it. Dad, eternally disliked by my grandmother for pulling my mom out of the spotlight and marrying her, hated every moment. Using work as an excuse, he would drive up from Philadelphia, our hometown, on weekends.
As I got older, after grandfather died, our visits were really all my grandmother looked forward to. She would have my room all done up with a frilly pink bedspread (something I pretended to love even after I’d outgrown it) and would serve all of my favorite meals. She would cater to anything I wanted as if I were her own daughter. Actually, even mom didn’t have it as good as I did in that old house.
And every summer, like clockwork, she would pull out her old prop umbrella, worn out and missing the knob, and we would do one of the skits she loved so much with me playing the straight man. She’d put on a funny hat and dress and jump right in.
“There are so many ways to understand what a lady is saying just by how she carries her umbrella! Like if she holds it like this-”
And I would break in, “It means it’s raining?”
“No, no,” she would correct. “It means she’s married! And if she holds it like this-”
“She’s single?” I would ask, giggling.
“No! It means she’s married and her husband is coming.”
“So you run?”
“Of course not. Then you nod, like so.”
“No, stupid! It means you want to meet her around the corner!”
“But she’s married!”
“Exactly, so you have to wait for the signal from her.”
My grandmother would then flirtatiously lift her dress a bit to show some leg, usually with dirty work pants and boots underneath since she was always gardening. This would have me doubled over in laughter by this point, keeping me from finishing the skit.
She would always chuckle along with me, then sit down in the nearest chair and remember the good old days, working the Vaudeville circuits with my grandfather.
Rebecca stared at the empty post card, unsure of how to apologize for missing her parents’ fiftieth anniversary party. Her cousin would surely be there, and she just couldn’t deal with seeing him again after their encounter. It would be too painful. He would get that look of excitement on his face, she would see his smile, and they would end up down the same path that she’d already put an end to more than once.
She bought a Thanksgiving post card to combine both excuses in one shot; he would be going to that as well. She thought back to the first day when they were hiking to the top of the small Mount Glade to watch the famous sunset. Time was running out because she wasn’t in as good of shape as she’d thought and they needed to rush to make it. He beat her to the top and as she climbed the final rocks saw him with myriad colors in the background, holding out his hand to her, and she accepted it. Her hand stayed in his without either of them noticing until it was too late.
Thanksgiving was a enormous loss for her. Some of her best childhood memories were those of her father giving thanks before they all dug in. He always named each of his children on that list, and the rare attention from the patriarch always made her heart skip a beat. Of course, he was always thankful for the roof over their head, meals, and baseball games, but she sat anticipating hearing her name come from his lips. And now she would miss it.
As she started to scribble the kindest words she could muster for her parents, they flowed rather smoothly. She finished and looked at it, rereading every word and wondering why her hands were shaking. It was horrible to avoid her family because of a few mistakes, but she had no choice; seeing him again would start it all back up and it was all wrong. She read the letter once more and realized that it sounded more friendly than loving, but she had to send it as is. Thanksgiving was in two days and it she didn’t have time to go out and buy another card.