Well another round of three-minute fiction has come and gone. This time the prompt was “finders keepers” , “A character finds something he or she has no intention of returning”. This round was even more fun because my wife and I did it together, each submitting our own story. I’ve been very fortunate to have my wife as my editor, but it’s been great to share the creative side of the process with her as well. I know she had a lot of fun writing the story below, and I hope you enjoy it too.
Standing on my tippy-toes I could just reach the utility shelf in my garage. I had just finished clearing out the old motor oil and weed killer I’d stashed up there years ago. I was certain I’d gotten everything, but I took one last pass sweeping my arm across the shelf.
Wait… What was that my finger nudged?
I jumped up and stretched my arm as far back as I could. In the corner my hand came down on what felt like the edge of a bowl. I could feel the rounded, soft plastic of an old margarine container. Or was it cottage cheese?
I slowly inched the container toward the edge of the shelf with the tip of my finger. I could hear something clinking; surely some type of hardware. As I pulled it down to confirm my suspicion I was taken aback by what I found. There before me was a lighter and pipe.
At first I looked at it, confused; my mind fumbling around trying to put it all together. This garage had been my father’s sanctuary when he was sick. While the cancer was eating away at his body he would come out here to work; to try to forget for just a moment that he wasn’t going see his little girl grow up. That was 20 years ago.
As the pieces started to come together in my mind, the tiniest bit of a smirk began to spread across my lips. I held the pipe up to my nose and took a whiff. It still had the faintest aroma of what I suspected. I flicked the lighter a couple of times just to see if after all those years it would work. As the tiny flame danced around, an uncontrollable euphoria came over me, and laughter bubbled up.
I could see it so clearly now; my father standing there in his white bib overalls, bandana tucked into his pocket, pencil behind his ear. He’s thinner than he used to be, and his beautiful red hair is gone, but it’s still him. He has the radio on a station that is now classic rock. He takes a pause from his woodworking and picks up his pipe. He flicks the lighter and takes a long drag. As he exhales he turns back to his work bench, bobbing his head along to the radio; finally some relief from the chemo.
I brushed the years of dust and dirt off the pipe and held it in my hand, just remembering him; his deep set brown eyes, freckles on his cheeks and nose, his soft lips that would kiss my forehead goodnight. When my thoughts finally drifted back to reality I crossed the garage, stopped at the cupboard, and placed his items on my shelf.