The Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge for this week requires that we write a story with four words. I chose:
- An unopened envelope
- A rocking chair
- A chess piece (in case you didn’t notice from the title)
- A child’s toy
“Frank Stone, case number 1157/87” shouted a burly man from behind rusty iron bars. A balding man covered in tattoos approached the small opening in the bars. “So Frank, I hope this is the last we see of you” said the guard behind the bars. “So do I, John. Next time I won’t be caught” added Frank through a smile. Probably the first in a decade. “Don’t tempt fate Frank. You have been given a second chance, don’t waste it”. The guard had heard this all before. All of them think that they are smarter than the system. All of them think that the next time will be different. Sooner or later, all of them come back inside. He usually didn’t care, but he had decided a long time ago that he liked Frank. He shrugged his shoulders, inmates will always be inmates.
“Shall we look at your personal belongings, Frank?” John mechanically grabbed a sealed brown envelope from a box as he started reading Frank’s process. “Please open it” said the guard as he handed the envelope to Frank. Frank carefully broke the seal and flipped the envelope upside down. A single chess piece fell on the white counter. A chipped wooden queen coated in cheap black paint. John fumbled through his papers once, twice, three times until he finally said “This can’t be right Frank. It says right here that your only belongings are a chess piece”. “That’s seems right to me” replied Frank stretching his smile even further “That is my most precious belonging. The only thing I really care about”. “An old chess piece?” inquired a wary John.
Frank took a brief pause before replying: “see, before I became a … guest here, I had something special. Or rather, someone special”. “You never told me you had a girlfriend Frank” interrupted John. Frank ignored him “Sweet Mary. The purest woman I know. She is funny, smart, with beautiful green eyes and makes one heck of an apple pie. Her heart is so big, she found a way to keep loving me, even after all I had done”. “Yes, I get it, she is perfect and you two love each other very, very much. But where does the chess piece come from?” John interrupted again. Frank sighed “The chess piece is an engagement ring. I was dirt poor at the time and couldn’t afford a gold ring. So I gave her a white king, and kept a black queen, as a symbol of our commitment”. “I never took you for a romantic, Frank. Does she still have her piece?” “It doesn’t matter. The night I was arrested she promised she would wait for me. Until the end of time, as she said” replied a confident Frank.
Sylvanna lane was as Frank had always remembered. Here and there, someone had changed the colour of a fence, or planted a new hedge, but not enough to dent the image of the small suburban neighbourhood. Time didn’t flow in Sylvanna lane. Frank passed the house of old lady Margarett and her rocking chair on the porch. The house of the McGraws stood next to their imposing apple tree. The dogs barked from the Carters’. The Carters’ dogs always barked whenever someone came close. The water was still green on the swimming pool of the Chesters. Everything was as it had always been. Even the house he most wanted to see.
The number 547 rose before him. An impeccable white door stood in the middle of an impeccable baby blue wall, as it had always been. Lilies decorated the stone path that leads to the door, as it had always been. The key was under the doormat, as it had always been. Frank knocked but no one answered. With familiar movement, he entered the number 547. The strong smell of freshly burned incense assailed Frank. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. It was her favorite. Frank opened his eyes and looked around the living room. The TV was new, but the furniture supporting it was not. He could remember most of the stains on the old leather couch. A child’s doll stood on the coffee table. Frank became apprehensive.
The narrow corridor connecting to the bedrooms was lined with photographs. Some with Mary, others with a bald man with a bright red beard. Some even had little girl with a toothless smile and an orange hair. By the time he entered his old studio, he was no longer smiling. Where once stood a desk, there was a chest filled to the brim with bright toys. The once sober walls were covered by doodles. Frank lowered his head and dragged his feet to the corridor. He put his hand in his pocket, feeling the old black queen as he entered the master bedroom.
Once inside, Frank didn’t waste any time and dove under the bed where he found an old lunchbox. Frank remembered Mary saying: “This box contains my heart”. His trembling hands struggled with the latch for a moment, but the old lunchbox was never very good at keeping secrets. Wedding photographs, happy mother’s day cards, an old pocket watch, love letters, a lock of red hair, many objects, big and small passed through Frank’s greedy fingers. Many objects, except the one his heart desired. A single tear ran down Frank’s cheek as he carefully placed the lunchbox where it belonged.
Later that day, at the edge of Sylvanna lane, a crestfallen man with lifeless eyes looked over his shoulder. It was the last time he ever saw Sylvanna lane.