Better than Starbucks Fiction
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I stood just inside the cupboard, door hanging open. Paper towels, plates and toilet tissue were on the left side and cans, bread, coffee, chips, crackers, and peanut butter were on the right. I looked back and forth, like watching a tennis match. Damn it. What in the hell did I come here for? This is happening a lot lately. Do I have Alzheimer’s? Dementia? I’m not too stressed to juggle a few simple tasks. Maybe I’ve had a mini stroke like all those dad had before his big one. The one that left him paralyzed, thinking Bush was still president. I’ll bet most folks wish he were now. “You know, them son of a bitches lied to us about Viet Nam. All of them,” he’d told me in a recent call. “Yes,” I said. “I imagine they all do.” I want to tell him to stop watching the damned television. Ain’t nothing on. Get Netflix and watch some movies or go outside. Staying in the house all day can’t be good for you. Should I go to the doctor and get a check-up for this forgetful stage? They may think I’m crazy. I walked in the restroom the other day wondering why I was there. I didn’t have to go. It took a minute. I just went for a tissue to wipe the food smudge off my glasses. Oh yeah. I finally remember. I came in here for a bag. These damned left over bags from the grocery store are good for the smaller trash cans.
I closed the door and walked to the restroom to replace the bag, since tomorrow the city picks up trash, and I want to make sure it’s all gathered and put in the large container, rolled to the street. My dog Frost, named for Robert, but mainly for his white and black coat, bumped at my feet with his squeaky toy. “Not now, Frost. I’ve got to get the trash out.” As if the dog could understand what I’m doing or why.
“Dad, do you have five dollars?” my son asked.
“No, I think I have two or three. Why?”
“I want pizza at school tomorrow.” I spent two hundred dollars at the damned grocery store and there’s nothing to eat. That’s like having two hundred channels and nothing to watch on tv. Who cares about them damned Kardashians, soap stars, reality shows. These tv people are all going to hell. Sartre’s hell, where the lack of a mirror will keep them scrambling to find one.
“Well, a slice of pizza shouldn’t cost five dollars. You tell them I said that.”
I took the small trash bag, put it in the big bag, pressed it down and tied it tight, carried it outside, and rolled the trash to the street.
“Hey,” my neighbor yells. “How are ya’ll doing?”
“We’re all good,” I said. Not really, but you don’t want to hear about my issues. It’s like I’m a damned car that goes and stops, goes and stops. I live in a pinball machine where life flips me from one stopper to the next. At some point, I won’t notice it anymore. I guess it won’t matter to me then if I don’t notice it, right? “Everything good with you all?”
He nodded, waived, and grabbed the newspaper, high-stepping back to the door. I know nothing about these people. They could be mafia or involved in a child porn ring for all I know. They damned sure put on a good disguise. Retired military, so they said, from California or some-damned-place where people smoke pot and have affairs. I wish they’d get some new mulch and paint them damned faded shutters. I know if they retired from the military, they can afford it. What was I going to do next? I know I rolled the trash can to the street. Hell, I meant to get the mail. I guess I’ll have to make another trip.
When I moved out of state, I didn’t change my cell number. I wanted to, but every time I called the cellular company, I listened to elevator music. After several attempts, I decided it was more trouble than it was worth. Occasionally, someone dials the wrong number, but most of the texts and calls I get reveal folks from my contacts list.
The first couple of calls from the number in my previous state went ignored. “They’ll figure out they have the wrong number at some point,” I said. A day later, a simple text arrived arrived, announced by my choo-choo train whistle: “Dee”. I stared at it, wondered if I should send a reply announcing the person had the wrong number, that I was Coleman. I didn’t. I decided to google the number in quotations and got a cellular listing for Jerome in a town about an hour from where I used to live.
The next day, a new text came in while I was on a conference call I had muted. “Wassup beautiful.” I laughed. I thought about sending a pic of myself back. I thought about playing along and sending him back a text, “Hey, Jerome” with a heart emoji. I decided to ignore it.
Later that evening, I was watching a Netflix series when my cell rang. I looked and it was Jerome. In the deepest voice I could muster, I answered, “Hello? This is Jake at State Farm.” Jerome replied, “Uh, uh, I got the wrong number.”
Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in over a hundred literary magazines all over the world including Drunk Monkeys, Spelk, The Arkansas Review: a Journal of Delta Studies, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Slice of Life, Faircloth Review, among many others. His website is www.nilesreddick.com
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