Flash fiction (Guest Author Series)
This week, I am pleased to introduce D. Mann, who skillfully captures the profound emotions and complexities of grief as his compelling short story explores the poignant journey of a man as he navigates the sad aftermath of his father's passing.
You walk into the house where you grew up. A nice, large home with a generous yard in a quiet suburban neighborhood with tree-lined streets, easy access to parks, and traffic light enough to allow children to roam without arousing anxiety in their parents. The colored leaves and the weakness of the midday sun announce autumn.
Your father died yesterday, and you are not sure what to expect emotionally as you enter this place. Framed family photos in the entryway bring back memories and a faint smile as you pick up one of your father kissing your mother on the cheek—a spontaneous show of warm love during their 25th wedding anniversary celebration. Next to it another photo of your father—this with his second wife, at the dinner table in this very house—serves as a bitter reminder that life goes on and that the expectations mapped by grief are contingent on unseen rules and different for us all.
You walk down the stairs to your father’s den in the basement—a dark, paneled, comfortable place with a fireplace, sturdy furniture, cozy chairs, framed military ribbons, and a faint but unmistakable canine scent. A man’s room, if you can envision such a thing.
In a corner, propped against a wall is the walker that he eventually accepted, well past the point when he first needed it, when his fragility finally robbed him of even his memories of a vigorous youth, and aroused in others only tender and merciful feelings. A fragility that brought understanding and forgiveness, but something short of and more generous than pity.
Then you spot on the mantle the first trophy that you won—for baseball—and you’re caught breathless and teary eyed the moment you remember the unexpected and welcome grace and patience that your father, the former Marine drill instructor, showed when he first taught you how to swing a baseball bat.
You recover and face your father’s favorite chair, worn from years of use. You can see him in the chair the day your mother died, his face buried in his hands, and you can hear his deep sobs that are unlike any you have ever heard as he sits alone in that room, twenty years ago in this empty house, facing the desperate loneliness that comes not from her absence but from the certain and non negotiable finality that she is never coming back. With this realization he bears the sorrow not only of her loss but of the things he never told her, a pain that you realize is now yours to bear alone.
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