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Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction is a term used for very short stories - normally 800 words or less and usually just one scene. They are fun to write and are often stimulation for longer stories or books.

Some of my flash fiction shown below are from writing exercises for the North Georgia Writers Group. Most exercises provide an idea, scene or concept as a starting point, then you develop the story. 

Photo: sw_PenOnManuscript_ncp9648.jpgBy jppi


posted May 12, 2017, 12:32 PM by Bruce Gaughran   [ updated May 12, 2017, 12:33 PM ]

Friday the 13th

Pacing back and forth in front of the door, I dry my sweaty hands on my pants and reach for the doorknob for the third time. My stomach churns. The bitter taste of bile burns my throat causing me to gag. I let go of the knob and collapse against the wall—my legs barely holding me up. I can’t do this.

I roll the kinks out of my shoulders and neck, and then force myself to open the door. I slink to a seat in the back of the room, never once looking toward the front. My hands tremble as I take out my notes. How did I ever get myself into this mess?

I don’t dare look up as I listen to the instructions. I know it’s all over if I make eye contact. I clench my jaw and slouch forward in my seat. My dry mouth makes it difficult to swallow.

Here we go. I take a deep breath, cross my fingers, and close my eyes. Please don’t—please don’t. Not today anyway.

Phew—one down. Thank you, Lord.

When Jason finishes, I glance up at the clock and groan. Thirty-nine minutes left.

If I live that long.

My muscles tighten and sweat oozes from my pores. Lifting my left arm, I take a whiff. I should have used deodorant this morning. I cover my face with my hands. Except for the ticking of the clock, the silence is painful.

Here we go again. Please God, don’t make me have to do this today.

My sigh sounds like a roar. My eyes jerks left and right to make certain no one heard me. That’s two. Thank you, Lord.

When Donald finishes, my heart races once again. This is pure torture. No one should have to go through this. Wiping my forehead with my sleeve, I bite my lower lip as I peek at the clock. Twenty-two minutes. Just enough time for one more.

Please God, I promise I’ll do better. I’ll be ready Monday.

A gasp escapes my lips. I steeple my hands and bow my head. I made it. Thank you, Lord.

After Margaret finishes, the adrenaline has worn off and my hands shake as I gather my things. Taking several deep breaths seems to help steady me. I lived to fight another day.

I scan the room wondering why no one else appears to have a problem with this. As the room empties, I lean back in my chair and stare at the ceiling.

This is crazy. Why is life so cruel?

Drawing: Samarnh Pang

The Football Game

posted Apr 20, 2016, 1:15 PM by Bruce Gaughran   [ updated Apr 29, 2016, 7:14 AM ]

Cindy waits with me on the front porch. I glance at my watch. “Where is he?” I mumble. “We’re never going to make it in time for the
kickoff.” Cindy pats my hand and nods.

Five minutes later, Jeff pulls into the driveway. He rolls down his window and yells, “Hey, Cindy.” He raises his arm and taps on his watch. “Stan, let’s get a move on it. We need to leave now. The game starts in forty minutes.”

I kiss Cindy before jogging to his car. “You’re the one who’s late. I was ready to go thirty minutes ago.”

“Don’t you start on me. Traffic was a bear. I got off the 405 at Gardena and drove the rest of the way on surface streets.”

When Jeff turns onto the northbound ramp for the 605 Freeway, I say, “This is the wrong way? The stadium is the other direction.”

“No its not.”

“Jeff, quit messing with me. The Coliseum is the other direction.”

“Who said anything about the Coliseum?”

I turn to face Jeff and shake my head. “That’s the only football game in L.A. today. Come on, you need to quit fooling around. Get off at the next exit.”

A big smile forms on Jeff’s face. “We’re going to the Rose Bowl.”

“There’s no game at the Rose Bowl.”

“Yes there is. The U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team has an exhibition game there today.”

My jaw drops as I stare at Jeff. “You said we were going to the football game. I don’t know anything about soccer. I have never watched a soccer game, and I don’t plan to today.”

A grin forms on Jeff’s face. “It’s about time you broadened your horizons. There are over two billion soccer fans in the world. The number of football fans is somewhere less than two hundred million. Don’t you think it is time you gave soccer a chance? Besides, it’s called football everywhere in the world but here.”

I shake my head. “Jeff, take me home. I can still catch the game on TV.”

“Stan, we’re going to the game. I bought the tickets and you’re going to learn what soccer is all about. Besides, the women’s team is fantastic. They won the World Cup as well as a Gold Medal at the 2014 Games. You’ll love it.”

“I swear, Jeff, if you make me go to the game, I’m taking you to the next synchronized swimming event held in the city.”

“No problem. It might be fun.”

I groan and slide down in my seat.

Photo: MassLive

Nothing Happened

posted Feb 29, 2016, 11:16 AM by Bruce Gaughran   [ updated Mar 23, 2016, 1:34 PM ]


Charlotte pushed Calvin away and leaped to her feet. “No, we can’t do this. It’s wrong.”

The pleasure of the moment dried up like a sunbaked raisin. Calvin flopped back unto the bed panting and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I thought this is what you wanted.”

Charlotte busied herself tucking in her blouse and straightening her skirt. “I’m sorry, Cal. I didn’t mean for this to happen. Perhaps it was the wine at dinner or because Jerry and I had a fight before I left this morning. I don’t know, but I’m sorry, this never should have happened.”

“Nothing happened, Charlotte, even though I believe both of us wanted it to.”

“Yes—no, I don’t know.” She dug through her purse looking for her room key. When she couldn’t find it, she dumped the entire contents out on the table. “I have to tell Jerry. He needs to know ...”

Calvin jerks up like a launched rocket. “You’re what? Charlotte, calm down. Nothing happened.” He placed his palms together as if praying. “If you tell Jerry, it’ll end our friendship. My God, we play golf together every Saturday. I’ll be forced to find another foursome.”

Charlotte’s eyes flashed as black as night. “You’re worried about a golfing partner while I’m sick to death thinking about my marriage and the children.”

“No, you’re taking it all wrong. Think about it. Nothing happened. All we did was kiss a few times. Nothing more. There’s nothing to tell.”

“You’re wrong,” her voice quivered. “A lot more than that happened. I’m in your hotel room at midnight making out on the bed.” She grabbed a Kleenex from the table and dabbed at her tears. “Where is my room key?”

Calvin stood up and placed his arms around her. “Let’s both take a breath. We can talk this out. Jerry doesn’t need to know anything about something that never happened.”

Charlotte jerked free from his arms and threw things back in her purse. “You just don’t understand. Jerry will know as soon as he sees me. There’s no way I would even consider hiding this. Jerry would say that keeping a secret in a marriage is like putting duct tape on a leaking water pipe. Eventually it will burst and things will be ten times worse when it happens. I need to go home now. He needs to know. It’s the only way.”

Calvin walked away for a moment before turning to face Charlotte. “Okay, let’s consider what this will do to Evelyn. If you tell Jerry, she will find out and that will be the end of my marriage. This isn’t the first time something like this happened.”

“What?” Charlotte jerked around and points to the rumpled bed. “Do you mean you do this regularly?”

“No, no, what I meant is that there were maybe one or two other times that I supposedly slept with someone else.” He threw his hands up in the air. “Evelyn said if I ever did something like that again, she would take the kids and leave. I couldn’t bear to lose Trace and Jen.”

Charlotte clasped her mouth with her hands. “Oh, my God, I think I’m going to be sick.”

 “Please don’t get me wrong. Charlotte, you’re different—and very special to me. The others were just one-night-stands.”

She shook her head, grabbed her purse, and walked toward the door. As she passed, Calvin reached out and touched her arm. “Please, let’s talk this out. I know we can get through this without causing anyone else any pain.”

Her stare was like the north wind in winter. “Calvin, get out of my way or I swear …”

As Charlotte jerked open the door, she heard one final plea. “Please, think of what you’re doing to my marriage.”

Pnoto: hotel room. by IJY

The Interview

posted Feb 17, 2016, 11:12 AM by Bruce Gaughran   [ updated Mar 23, 2016, 1:35 PM ]

John’s phone rings, “Yes, Mary, what is it?”

”Mr. Bartow, your 10:00 appointment is here.”

“Thank you. Give me three minutes and then show her in.”

John pulls a file folder from his inbox and scans the resume one more time.


“Mr. Bartow, I would like to introduce Ms. Sherry Carrolton.”

“Thank you, Mary.”

John walks around his desk and greets the applicant. “Ms. Carrolton, thank you for coming in. Please have a seat.”

“Thank you, Mr. Bartow, please call me Sherry.”

“No problem, Sherry. Please call me John.” John opens the file folder before continuing.

“John, I really like your suit. May I ask who your tailor is?”

“Men’s Warehouse.”

“That’s funny–you’re joking, right?”

“I see that you have a BS from Berkley in Logistics and a Master’s from Stanford. Very impressive. And, currently you live in Malibu. So, what brings you to the east coast?”

“Well, I figured the best opportunities for growth and advancement would be with a Fortune 100 company. And, there are more of those type companies on the east coast. Most of the Top 100 outsource a portion of their manufacturing. And, almost all of them import parts and export products. So, here I am.”

John studies Sherry before continuing. “All right. For the last seven years you have been in school. What drove you to major in logistics?

“As you already know, if you want to fast track it up the corporate ladder, logistics is the field to be in. I figure that I can make my mark in a year or two and be eligible for a promotion. I hope to be sitting in your chair soon—no more than three-to-five years, anyway. From there, the sky is the limit. Besides, I love to travel. A career in logistics as an opportunity to see the world.”

“Let me ask my question a different way. Do you even like logistics, Sherry?”

“I’ll be honest with you. It’s okay. There are some aspects of it that are interesting.”

John closes the file folder and stares out the window. “Sherry, why would I want to hire you over the other candidates?”

 “First off, John, you are a smart man. You wouldn’t be in your position if you weren’t. Second, and just as important, do you have any other applicants with a Master’s degree?”

“No, but I have several that have worked in the field and been successful in their endeavors. Tell me then, why would I risk hiring someone with no practical experience over a seasoned veteran?”

“Well, besides having a Master’s degree, in school I studied and modeled the best companies and the latest innovations. I also graduated with a 3.5 GPA. And, if you keep me challenged and provide upward mobility, you won’t regret it.”

“Yet, Sherry, I don’t see where you have any work experience—not even a part-time job. Is that correct?”

“I’m fortunate to have parents that value an education. They felt I should concentrate on my degree and not be burdened with part-time or summer jobs. I’m certain you can understand that, being you are a vice president.”

John studies Sherry while tapping his index finger on his chin. “If you should be selected, what are your compensation requirements?”

“Your ad mentions a range from $70-90,000. I feel I deserve the higher end because of my education. Of course, annual raises should be proportionate to my contribution—somewhere in the 7-to-10% range. And, as I mentioned, promotions every 2-3 years. Oh, I almost forgot. I assume there is a bonus program, right?”

“Why do you need a promotion every 2-3 years? Or let me ask it in another way. Can you see yourself in the same position in, let’s say, five years?”

“No, I have to be challenged because I become bored easily. What keeps my juices flowing is the next growth opportunity.”

“Okay, Sherry, let’s say you are in my position. Why would you hire someone with your credentials, but no work experience, over another person with successes in the logistics field?”

“I hate to keep on repeating myself, John, but I have a Master’s degree. Do any other applicants have a Master’s?”

“No, but several have a proven track record. Shouldn’t that count for something?”

“John, let me be frank. I am a ‘go-getter’ who excelled in school, and I will excel in a corporate environment. By hiring me, you will look good to your boss. Then, we can ride each other’s coattails all the way to the top. How’s that for a win-win?” Sherry sits back in her chair and smiles.

“Sherry, thank you for being so forthcoming. You've given me a lot to think about. Now, is there anything you would like to know about the company or the actual position? For example, what you would be doing? What my expectations are? Who would be reporting to you—things like that?”

“No—I don’t think so. We can go over that after we agree upon the salary and perks.”

“Well, Sherry, I can honestly say this has been an enlightening interview. I appreciate you taking the time to come in. We’ll be in touch.”

“When can I expect to hear from you?”

“I need to make a decision within the next month or two.”

“That’s longer than I would have expected, John. I have two other potential jobs in the works. What should I do about them?”

“I’d look seriously at taking one of them.” 


You Don't Understand

posted Jan 22, 2016, 11:51 AM by Bruce Gaughran   [ updated Mar 23, 2016, 1:35 PM ]

       “Good Morning, Starshine, the earth …” Amy’s phone plays. She sees it is Bobby calling. She flops down on the bed. “Hey, Bobby, what’s going on?”

“Hi, Amy, how are you?”

“I’m fine­ – just packing my bags. What’s up with you?”

“Um, I was hopin to see you before you left for vacation this morning, but, I’ve gotta go to work. So, uh, I guess this hasta be done this way.”

Amy pulls the phone from her ear and switches to speakerphone. “Bobby, what are you talking about? What has to be done?”

“You know how we agreed it would be okay to see other people?”

“Bobby, are you breaking up with me?”

“Well, it’s not like we’re goin steady or anything.”

“Bobby, just tell me the truth. Are you breaking up with me?”

“I just thought it might be good for us to test the waters. You know, date other people to make certain we’re right for each other.”

Amy’s face turns beet red. “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me – today of all days,” she yells into the phone. “This is about as low as you can go. After everything I have done for you­ – sacrificed for you – and now you are breaking up with me.”

“I’m sorry, Amy, but I thought you understood …”

“Don’t ever call me again, Bobby,” she interrupts. “We’re done!”

Amy throws her phone on the bed and storms into the kitchen and plops down at the table next to her mother. “Mom, you won’t believe this. Bobby just broke up with me.”

“Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it, Amy? You said you were going to break up with him when we returned from our vacation.”

“But, mom, you don’t understand, I was supposed to break up with him.”


Photo:  girloncellphone.jpg  by anitapeppers

What's Fair?

posted Oct 30, 2015, 10:15 AM by Bruce Gaughran   [ updated Mar 23, 2016, 1:36 PM ]

“Three burnt French fries,” Professor Andrews says as he leans down and sniffs them. With an exaggerated scowl, he pushes them to the left side of the table. “And, three good fries.” He sniffs these fries, smiles, and pushes them to the other side. “Now, let’s say that you are one of six people lost in the mountains. All of you are starving. How do you determine who eats the good fries?”

The students shift in their chairs as they look around the classroom. No one offers an answer.

“Jayne, tell me how you would do it.”

“Uh-um,” she begins. “Well, I suppose the fairest way is to ask if three are willing to eat the burnt fries.”

The professor walks over to the board and writes, ‘Ask who’ll eat the burnt ones’. “Okay, what if no one will take the burnt fries, or only one or two will?”

The question is answered with silence. “Think about it, Jane, I’ll come back to you in a minute.” Professor Andrews turns to the left. “Ron, what would you do?”

“Well, to me it’s a pure case of survival of the fittest.” He smiles before continuing. “I would eat the three good fries and let the others fight over the burnt ones.”

The class erupts in laughter and even Professor Andrews has a smile on his face as he writes, ‘Don’t share the good ones.”

When he turns around, he sees Sherry’s hand raised. “Yes, Sherry, what would you do?”

With a smile on her face, she announces, “I would cut the six French fries in half. Each person would then receive a good one and a burnt one.”

“Thank you, Sherry. That is an interesting approach.” Andrews writes, ‘Cut in half and distribute the good with the bad’. “So, you propose that everyone should have to share equally.”

“Jane, I’m coming back to you now. What if no one wants the burnt fries?”

Jane initially doesn’t respond, but then finally replies, “Then I propose we use Sherry’s approach.”

Eric leans toward Jane and says loud enough for the class to hear, “Cop-out!”

Professor Andrews laughs along with everyone else, but then asks, “Eric, why don’t you tell us what you would do?”

“The solution is simple. Everyone has to work for his or her French fry. Everyone would forage for food and firewood. The ones who collect the most get to choose first. The harder someone works, the greater the reward.”

The professor writes on the board, ‘Reward the hardest workers with the first choice.’ “Good, now does anyone else have any ideas?”

When no one responds, he scratches his chin for a moment and then asks, “Why don’t we make this democratic and vote on the best solution to the problem?” He points to the students in the front row. “I need you six to vote on the solution you would accept.”

The professor points to Jane’s solution. “Who would vote for this one?”

When no one raises his or her hand, he points to Ron’s solution. “Would anyone vote for this one?” Ron raises his hand.

The professor shakes his head. “You aren’t one of the six voting, Ron.” Everyone chuckles. Again, no one raises his or her hand, so he asks, “Who likes Sherry’s solution of cutting the fries in half?”

Three of the six voting raise their hands and the professor writes ‘3’ next to it. “Okay, then who would vote for Eric’s solution of rewarding the hardest workers?”

The other three students raise their hands. The professor writes ‘3’ next to that solution. Then he walks to the podium and scratches his head. “Now what do we do? Three like one solution and three like another.”

“You give me the three good fries and the problem is solved,” replies Ron.

After more laughter, Professor Andrews walks over to the six students. “I want you to huddle-up and reach agreement on one solution. You have five minutes to work it out.”

Five minutes later, he asks the students, “Have you reached an agreement?”

Sandy stands and says, “We have agreed to the following. All of us are going to forage for food and firewood for one hour. Then, we will cut the fries in half and everyone will receive one good fry and one burnt one.”

Professor Andrews claps his hands. “I applaud your decision. It satisfies both proposed solutions by addressing the intent of each. More importantly, you reached a consensus that everyone can live with and it only took five minutes. Unfortunately, most politicians just do not seem to understand the meaning of the word consensus.”

Let's Not Talk About It

posted Oct 14, 2015, 9:59 AM by Bruce Gaughran   [ updated Mar 23, 2016, 1:37 PM ]

Location: Denny’s Restaurant sometime in 2010

Frank: “Morning, Jenny, how are you today?”

Jenny: “I’m fine, Frank, do you want the usual?”

Frank: “Yup. Would you also ask that serviceman just sitting down over there if I can buy him breakfast?”

Jenny: You bet, Frank.”

Jimmy T: “Hey, that’s awful kind of yah, mister. Can I join yah?”

Frank: “Sure, son, I’d love the company. I’m Frank, by the way.”

Soldier: “Jimmy T. Were yah in the service?”

Frank: “Sure was.”

Jimmy T: “I hope yah don’t mind me asking, but is that how yah lost your leg?”

Frank: “Yes.”

Jimmy T: “Vietnam?”

Frank: “Sure, but let’s not talk about the war. I’d rather talk about life?”

Jimmy T: “I just thought we could share some stories being yah understand what it was like.”

Frank: “Yes, I was there, but that doesn’t mean I want to talk about it. That was in the past.”

Jimmy T: “But, I can’t forget. It haunts me continuously. I can’t sleep. People just don’t understand what I am going through.”

Frank: “Who brings the subject up?”

Jimmy T: “What–what do yah mean?”

Frank: “Do people ask you about the war? Do they want to know what happened to you over there?”

Jimmy T: “Well, yeah. As soon as I mention that I am having problems adjusting, they want to know more.”

Frank: “So, you’re the one who initiates the discussion.”

Jimmy T: “I guess so.”

Frank: “What if you didn’t bring it up?”

Jimmy T: “How can I not bring it up? I was there. I lost some good friends over there. I almost died over there. Hell, people need to know what it was like. They need to understand what we went through. What we are still going through.”

Frank: “What if you didn’t tell them?”

Jimmy T: “Why wouldn’t I? We sacrificed a lot to serve our country. You, more than most people, should understand that.”

Frank: “Son, I read something at the V.A. a while back that I found interesting. Only about seven percent of all living Americans are serving, or have served, in the military. And, only about four percent have combat experience.”

Jimmy T: “Gee, I would’ve thought there would be more than that. So what?”

Frank: “Well, that means almost all Americans haven’t experienced what you and I did.”

Jimmy T: “I’m sorry, mister, but I’m not following yah.”

Frank: “That’s my point, Jimmy. Almost everyone you talk to won’t understand what you are talking about. And, they will never have a clue what you went through. No matter how much you talk about it, or try to explain it, they still won’t.”

Jimmy T: “But, shouldn’t we tell? Don’t they need to know?”

Frank: “To what end. Nothing will change. Your memories are still there. What happened happened.”

Jimmy T: “But…”

Frank: “Will it bring back your buddies? Will it help you forget?”

Jimmy T: “No, but…”

Frank: “So what good does it do for you to constantly rehash your experiences?”

Jimmy T: “I don’t know.”

Frank: “That’s my point. Every day of your life is consumed with the past.”

Jimmy T: “Sir, I appreciate yah buying me breakfast and all, but yah just don’t understand what it was like over there. Maybe it’s been too long and yah just forgot.”

Frank: “Oh, son, I do understand, and, let me tell you something. You never forget. I was you forty years ago. And, just like you, I couldn’t let it go. It ended up destroying my marriage, and with it, my family. I lost everything because I couldn’t, no, wouldn’t, let it go.”

Jimmy T.: “But, I can’t forget about it. It haunts me every day.”

Frank: “I know that, but that doesn’t mean you have to constantly talk about it. There’s a whole world out there that could care less about what happened to us a few months, or forty years, ago. Live with it.”

Jenny: “Here’s your orders, gentleman. Can I get you anything else?”

Frank: “Yes, Jenny, you can. We’d like some more coffee, please. And while you're at it, tell us what Jonah ended up making for his science project?”

Photo:  remember_me.jpg By lightfoot

At Peace

posted Sep 30, 2015, 7:38 AM by Bruce Gaughran   [ updated Mar 23, 2016, 1:37 PM ]

The melodic ratcheting coos of the Sandhill Cranes passing overhead accompanied by the hollow pops, slurps and gurgles of the babbling stream almost put me to sleep this morning. Off in the distance, trumpeting Canadian Geese signal they are leaving for warmer pastures and lakes. Nearby, lingering Mallards reply that it is not yet time to go.

I cup my hands and dip them into the water. They tingle as I lift them to my mouth for a drink. In its attempt to escape, the water running down my forearms prickles my skin. The iron-rich glacier-fed water refreshes my parched tongue.

A nearby squirrel must have found its stash of acorns dwindling. It barks and squeaks warning all to stay away from its treasure. In response, a chipmunk chirps back probably saying, “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” A Steller Jay’s squawk in a tree above lets the squirrel know it is also interested in stocking up for the winter.

I pull my numb toes from the stream and rub life back into them. Even though the sun warms my face, the chill from the rock I am perched on causes me to shiver. A cool breeze rustles the leaves bringing the air around me alive foretelling the changes to come.

I swipe at the high-pitched buzz near my left ear. Probably a mosquito or some other busy bug looking for one of its last meals before the frost. Taking a deep breath, the pungent odor of decaying wood fills my sinus passages.

The constant cheeping of a nearby river otter is interrupted by the staccato’d chattering of the Kingfisher still looking for its morning meal. A lonely Cardinal calls to its mate with three whistles and several tisks. A response comes from off in the distance, followed by the fluttering of wings.

A tap on my shoulder and guiding hands help me wrap my fingers around a cup of something hot. The aroma of cocoa is unmistakable and a smile forms on my lips. I take a sip and swirl the hot sweet liquid around my mouth. When I swallow it, the warmth flows all the way to my stomach.

Something glances off my forehead and lands in my lap. I run my fingers along its edges and across its surface. It is a leaf, perhaps an oak or sassafras. I could keep it, but instead I lean over and gently lay it on top of the flowing water. How far it will travel, and what it will see and hear, is anyone’s guess.

I am at peace.

“Daniel, it’s time to go.” The comment shatters the moment.

Years ago, I would beg to stay a little longer. Now, I just nod and raise my hands.

As the strong arms lift me to my feet and safely guide me off the rock, I have to ask, “Can we come back tomorrow?”

“We’ll see,” is the same non-responsive answer I get every time.

It's Your Decision

posted Sep 25, 2015, 8:09 AM by Bruce Gaughran   [ updated Sep 25, 2015, 8:11 AM ]

Tony just sits there, one minute looking at me, and the next at his mother. It is as if he is waiting for one of us to say we are only joking.

But the look on his face communicates the real message. I was wrong. I never should have told him. Donna told me not to, but I argued it wasn’t supposed to be a secret. I always thought it would come out at some time–no big deal, right.

“Why are you telling me this today, Dad?”

My mouth is parched. The words are having difficulty forming on my tongue. I swirl my tongue around several times and generate enough saliva to swallow.

“Nothing has changed, Son. We are still your parents.” I reach out and take Donna’s hand. “We will always be your parents.”

Tony is shaking his head. “You’re telling me I have another mom and dad out there–who didn’t want me–who gave me up for adoption. What am I supposed to think about that?”

“Son, you were six months old when you came into our lives. You are our boy. We love you and always will.” The words sound hollow to me.

He searches my face looking for answers. “All my life I thought you were my parents. Never once did I ever think I was adopted. If you feel nothing has changed, then why was it so important to tell me today?” Tony smacks his forehead with the palm of his hand. “We’re supposed to be celebrating my birthday. I’m sorry, but this is some sick kind of present.”

Now the hard part. “Because something has come up. Something we never dreamed would happen.”

“What could that be?” The sarcasm in his voice pierces my heart and I want to cry.

“First of all, we don’t think of you as adopted. You are, and always will be, our boy. We could not love anyone more than we love you.”

“Then answer my question. Why today? Why any day for that matter?”

Tears form in my eyes. I turn away and swipe at them. I face him again and reach out with my hand. He lightly pushes it away and shakes his head.

“Tony, your birth father called us this morning. He wants to meet you.”

Anger flashes across his face. “Why would I want to meet him?” he growls.

“I don’t know, Son, because he’s your father.”

His head snaps up and the look on his face sends a chill down my back. “I thought you were my father.”

His reply stung like a whip. I couldn’t stop the tears this time. I grabbed my handkerchief and dabbed at my eyes. “I–I am your father.”

“Then why would I ever want to meet him?”

I stare at the floor and shake my head. “I’m not sure. I just thought you should know so you could decide …”

“But, why would I?” he interrupts. “He didn’t care about me sixteen years ago.”

There is no longer anger in his voice, only hurt. I notice his eyes glassing over. I offer him my handkerchief, but he shakes his head and turns toward the window.

“Son, it is your decision. You need to decide if you want to call him, or even see him.”

He turns to me. He is my little boy again. He is hurt and doesn’t know what to do. I’m supposed to protect him and comfort him.

Tony wipes his cheeks with his hands and dries them on his jeans. “What should I do, dad?”

“I don’t know, Son. I just don’t know.”

“Come on, what would you do? You always know what to do.”

I take a deep breath while searching for some fatherly advice that will ease the pain. “There is no right or wrong decision. It is totally up to you and we will support whatever you decide. But, if you want to talk more about it, we are here for you.”

Pausing, I try to find the answer Tony is looking for from me. “Son, you need to know this. Your birth father waited sixteen years to contact you. So, just because he’s ready to meet you doesn’t mean you’re ready. When the time is right, you will know. Whether it is today, next week, next month, or even next year, it doesn’t matter.”

“Okay then, I’ll wait.”

I notice him set his jaw. This conversation is over. “Good.” I force a grin and nod. “And, whatever your decision, it will be the right one.”

I reach out, grab his head and rub my knuckles through his hair. As he struggles to free himself from my clutches, his giggle makes me laugh. He has had the same one for most of his life. “Okay then. Mom, how about some cake and ice cream?”

Photo:birthdaycandles.jpg By kakisky

The Note

posted Aug 3, 2015, 7:00 AM by Bruce Gaughran   [ updated Aug 29, 2015, 6:45 AM ]

Cheri Anderson walks into Balinski’s Cleaning Services, steps up to the counter, and dumps the contents of her shopping bag in front of her. As she sorts the clothes into three stacks, a dress shirt falls to the floor. Reaching down to pick it up, she notices a dingy brown piece of paper with some writing on it next to her shoe. Tucking her hair behind her ears with one hand, she picks up the shirt and the note with the other.

Flattening the piece of paper out on the counter with her fingers, Cheri studies it for a moment. The writing is in all caps and in a language she doesn’t recognize.

“Mrs. Anderson, how nice to see you again.”

Cheri glances up from the note. “Well hello, Mrs. Balinski, it is always good to see your smiling face. Howard just returned from a trip and he has a ton of clothes that needs to be cleaned.” She points at the left stack. “Wash these. Press the shirts using light starch.” Pointing at the middle stack, Cheri adds, “Dry clean these, please. And, this last stack is a few delicates that need special handling.”

Mrs. Balinski drops the first stack into a wash bag and pins on a red colored button with a number on it. She grabs two other bags and does the same with the other piles using different colored numbers for each bag. After writing the three numbers on a receipt and dating it, she hands it to Cheri. “No problem, Mrs. Anderson. They will be ready Thursday afternoon. You have a good day.”

As Cheri turns to leave, she remembers the note. “Oh, I almost forgot. I found this on the floor.” She hands the piece of paper to Mrs. Balinski.

A frown appears on Mrs. Balinski’s face as she studies the note. She glances at Cheri and then back at the note. “You said you found this on the floor?”

“Yes, it’s probably nothing, but you never know.”

Mrs. Balinski’s face turns crimson as she mumbles, “Nie, nie, dlaczego po tak długim czasie,” then turns around and yells, Papa, pojawią się tutaj już teraz!”

As he walks up to the counter, Mr. Balinski nods to Cheri and smiles. When he turns to his wife, however, a look of concern flashes across his face. “What’s the matter, Momma, you look like you just saw a ghost.”

Mrs. Balinski’s hand is shaking as she pushes the piece of paper into her husband’s hand. “Przeczytaj to, Papa, pani Anderson znalazłem to na podłodze.”

Mr. Balinski reads the note. His head snaps up and he stares at Mrs. Anderson with a furrowed forehead. “You found this here–in our shop?”

 “Yes, right here on the floor.” The look on the Balinski’s faces unsettles Cheri. “What is it? Is something wrong?”

Mr. Balinski shook his head. A smile appears on his face, but it looks chiseled on and not comforting. He glances at his wife and nods his head. She shuffles to the front door and turns over the ‘Open’ sign.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Anderson, we–I–forgot that we have an appointment–a–a–doctor’s appointment this morning. We are closing early.” He walks around the counter, takes Cheri’s arm and directs her to the door that his wife is holding open. “Thank you for coming.”

Cheri isn’t two feet out the door when she hears the lock click behind her. She turns around and studies the two just inside. Mr. Balinski is leaning up against the glass door looking up and down the street. Mrs. Balinski has her hand up to her mouth and tears are staining her cheeks. Mr. Balinski says something, wipes away her tears, and then pulls her into his arms. When he notices Cheri looking at them, he turns off the lights and guides his wife away.

After only a few feet, Mrs. Balinski’s legs give out and she collapses to the floor. Her husband picks her up and supports her as they walk into the darkness.

Cheri gasps. She searches the inside the shop for the Balinskis. The longer she stands there, the more her mind rewinds what just took place. “What was written on that note?” 

Knowing something is wrong; she looks up and down the street. Not seeing anyone nearby, she raps on the glass with her knuckles. When Mr. Balinski doesn’t come to the door, she starts slapping the door with the palm of her hand and shouts, “Mr. Balinski! Mr. Balinski! Please open the door.”


“Look out below!” The shout from above causes Cheri to jump back.

BLAM! Not more than three feet from where Cheri stood, a bucket of soapy water explodes on the sidewalk. Feeling a wet cold attacking her legs and feet, she looks down and notices her pant legs and shoes covered in suds. Cheri looks up, and then blinks several times as the sun reflecting off the glass exterior of the building hurts her eyes. She places her hands on her forehead to shield her eyes from the blinding light.

Four window washers are using their winches and ropes to descend from three stories up. When the first man reaches the sidewalk, Mrs. Anderson launches into him. “You could have killed me! Just what were you thinking …?”

The thirty-something suntanned man raises his hands in surrender. “We’re sorry, ma’am. My name is Bob.” He points up and adds, “John didn’t have his bucket secured to the safety line. This is his first day on the job–and the way he has performed, it will probably be his last.”

Cheri isn’t about to accept his apology as she sputters, “Just look–look at what you did to my clothes.” She starts brushing the foam from her pants. “I can’t go back to work looking like this.” Cheri reaches into her purse, pulls out a tissue, and wipes her shoes. “I just can’t believe …”

When the three other window cleaners reach the sidewalk. Cheri glares at them with the disintegrating tissue dripping through her fingers.

The red headed man without a bucket attached to his safety line, refuses to look at her. “Are you hurt, ma’am?" he mumbles.

“No, but I could have been killed. What were you thinking?”

Bob unhooks the safety line from his belt, reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wad of bills. “Ma’am, we don’t want any trouble. It was an accident. We’re just trying to do our job.” He pulls three twenties and reaches out toward her.  “Please–I hope this will cover your cleaning costs and help with the inconvenience we may have caused you.”

Cheri stares at the money and then shakes her head. “No, I don’t want your money.” She takes another look at her pants and shoes. “I know it was an accident.” She stares at John for a moment before adding. “Just be more careful or someone could get hurt.”

John glances up and nods. “Yes, ma’am–sorry, ma’am.”

Bob takes a step forward and this time he only has one twenty dollar bill in his hand. “Please–for the cleaning.”

Cheri stares at the money, feeling her face flush, then nods and accepts the money. “That should more then cover it. Thank you.” She takes one last look at John before walking away.

After the woman has turned the corner, Bob walks up to John and slaps him on the shoulder. “Good thinking, Avraham. That bucket trick distracted her.”

“Thank you, Yosef. I did not think she was ever going to leave.”

Yosef looks around, unzips his backpack, and pulls out four Glock 19s. As he hands them out, he says, “Avraham and I will go in the front.” He points to the other two men. “Micha, I need you and Eli to cover the back door. If all goes well, we will be on our way home this evening. Remember, we want him alive.”

Yosef straightens his arm out in front of him and makes a fist. “Shalom aleichem.”

The other three place their hands upon Yosef's fist as they respond, “Aleichem Shalom.”

To read the entire story, click on this link: Atonement

Photo:  mzacha_P5010081.JPG By mzacha

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