Three Micro Stories: False Starts, An Empty Day, Thoughtless

Writing this year was all False Starts and Premature Finishes. I could not find a character to tell a story. I could not find the story. Forget setting. Well, maybe not. So, I resort to the age-old plot: A False Start and a Premature Finish go into a bar. They don’t sit next to each other. They don’t talk. The bartender asks what’ll it be? The False Start orders a dry martini, dirty, three olives. The Premature Finish orders the same. The bartender is noncommittal. For once, he gets the starring role because he knows a good story when he sees one.

A man has been walking past my home, past my front window, every day now for two weeks, maybe longer. He wears a raincoat that drags at his ankles and carries a frayed tote bag. Always the same BBC bag. I think it is the man who stood in line behind me at the bank or perhaps it was the corner shop. It’s a small town, a village, a hamlet. I sound as if I’ve been reading too many British mystery novels set in small towns still capable of outsized mayhem. When I moved here in the fall my daughter complained that my house is too close to the street as are the houses on either side of mine, twenty or so all in a row like a child’s set of building blocks. A short stone walkway brings any visitor through my gate and to my door with fifteen steps. I don’t have visitors. My daughter comes twice a year, which doesn’t count. The mailman says hello when I am in my front garden pruning the roses. It is always late afternoon when I see the man coming down the sidewalk. His gait is slow, measured. His gaze attaches itself to my front door until he is five steps away from my gate, at which time he pointedly looks away. He continues slowly on his walk, but I suspect he will be back. He seems to be planning something. It is almost too good to be true.

If you had thought to look before brewing your morning coffee, you would have noticed that we are out of cream and out of milk,
If you had thought to ask me why we’re out of milk and cream,
If you had thought to listen, then to go upstairs,
If, surprised, you had thought to open my closet, paw through my dresser drawers, look for the splayed book on my bedside table,
If you had thought to whistle for Bruno, you might have missed his awkward lurchings and slobbery jowls,
If you had thought to retrieve the newspaper, you would have noticed that it was already inside the door, on the hall table, where my car key is missing,
If you had thought to pay the paperboy, we might have avoided his Halloween prank of toilet paper in all four trees,
If you had wondered why no one badgered you to be a ghost, or a clown, or a cowboy to hand out candy this year,
If you had thought to check the twins’ computers, to snoop around their on-line nine-year old lives,
If you had thought to reach out to my sister she might have told you about my late-night phone calls,
If you had thought to talk to my mother she might have admitted to preparing the garage apartment for me and the twins,
If you had thought to notice that the cat was missing, in addition to her water and kibble bowls, her catnip mouse and scratching post, the efficient Furminator, the plush cat bed, and her offending litter box, you would have enjoyed at least one agreeable moment on this day.


Image: By Johann Trasch, licensed under CC 2.0 from Unsplash.

Pamela Painter
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