The story the cards dealt me to read was something from Daily Science Fiction. I read it yesterday so I could use it as a prompt this morning.
The story I read was “Cover Story” by R. L. Thull. I’m usually pretty good at spotting where a flash fiction is going, since there isn’t much room for distraction. This one, though, sucked me so completely into the world and interiority of the narrator, my Inner Editor totally lost consciousness. Well done; very well done.
R.L. Thull is a graphic designer, illustrator, and writer with a small robot collection. Her speculative fiction has appeared in Fireside Magazine and received an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. Currently, she is working on a graphic novel called The Neighbors. R.L. resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and two misbehaving cats.
“Cover Story” was about memory, so memory became my prompt. I have a full day today, so I sincerely hope this is a very short story. Fingers crossed.
by Marian Allen
The late-night knock on Ian’s door was soft and hesitant, the knuckles dragging the wood after each rap. The sort of knock he knew well.
His boarders stirred around the fire.
“Who’s left outside?” Craig said, and the others chuckled and murmured possibilities.
Arlen, typically, raised his glass and shouted, “The more, the merrier!”
Ian opened the door and groaned. “It’s Powell!”
“Which one?” Sloan called.
“Owen Powell.” Now all the boarders groaned.
Gavin objected. “That toothache? Still got his face turned inside out? Turn him away!”
“Right, then,” said Powell, hunching his shoulders and turning from the door.
“No, no!” Ian put a hand into the darkness. “Come in, and welcome. I can’t help how you’re remembered, but don’t go.”
Powell’s head drooped, then lifted. “Fair enough.” He followed Ian into the warmth.
“Sit down by the fire,” said Ian. “There’s an empty chair, and I’ll get you a glass.”
Gavin said, “That’s Keith’s chair!”
Ian said, “I’ll bring him another when he gets back. He’s never gone long.”
“Worse luck,” said Gavin. “We’re none of us gone long.”
The room got very silent, as all the men stared into their thoughts.
Powell accepted a whiskey from Ian with a curt nod. “Where’s he gone, then?”
“It’s his birthday,” said Sloan. “His youngest granddaughter has his name for her middle and was born on his birthday. She always makes a toast to Grandpa Keith and tells the story of how he rescued a pig when the rain came for a week and the valley flooded.”
They told that story, themselves, and others of the flood, and others of pigs, other livestock, other days.
At last, Ian banked the fire and washed his glass and put it to drain and went to bed.
Always sad, when an old acquaintance had nobody left to remember him but Ian, an old man, himself. When he was gone, where would the memories go? Where would the memory of him go, with no friends left alive — Powell was the last — and no living relations?
Ah, well. He held them all in his keeping, now. Maybe, when he passed, they wouldn’t disappear. Maybe he’d join them. Maybe they’d roam the dark together, as they had in their boisterous youth, happy forever, as they’d been sublimely happy then.
MY PROMPTS TODAY: Memory