Fletcher's Flashback

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Review Chain
An old man suffering form writers' block remembers the fun times he had with his grandfather to inspire himself.

Submitted: April 17, 2017

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Submitted: April 17, 2017

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 In a little log cabin nestled between bristle coated pine trees sat an old man with wispy white hair and wrinkles criss-crossing his whole face like ravines. He stared down at the blinding emptiness of the fresh sheet of notebook paper on his creaky, wooden desk. The man picked up his sharpened number two pencils which had been lying neatly in the curved crevice at the top of his desk. He began to tap on the wood, drumming out a catchy rhythm with surprising skill. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-clunk. One pencil slipped out of his hand and made a hasty retreat to the floor just as a plump, sour-faced woman stormed into the room and let the screen door slam shut behind her. She wiped her soiled hands on a well-worn apron, took a deep breath and let all hell loose.

“How many times do I have to tell you, Fletcher, the rent won’t pay itself,” she sighed, exasperated by her husband’s meager writing. Fletcher hunched down in his seat like an embarrassed schoolboy, attempting to make his lanky frame disappear. “Get to work!,” she hollered. “When I get home from the market, I want to see at least the first chapter of your novel completed.” After one more dramatic sigh, she stormed out of the cabin, letting the screen door slam, shaking the whole structure, and causing Fletcher’s other pencil to roll off the table and join its mate on the floor.

Fletcher picked up a pen, taped it against his chin a few times, then touched it to the paper causing the ink to bleed across the page and form a blurry circle. He quickly lifted his pen and began to write, “Once upon a time there was a city boy who enjoyed…,” but his idea ended there. He crumpled up the paper and smushed it between his palms until it was a tiny ball of lost hope. Fletcher tossed it at the trash bin and watched it bounce off the rim, landing in an ever-growing pile of crumpled up writings that would never be completed.

Fletcher hung his head and closed his eyes, allowing his fingers to move on their own over letters engraved into the wooden desk. He traced them by memory. First an “O”, then “L”, “I”, “V”, “E”, “R”. “Oliver,” Fletcher whispered out loud and a small, longing, smile grew across his face. “What would Oliver do?” Fletcher felt that he asked himself this question too many times a day. He squeezed his eyes shut and heard the gravely words of his grandfather in his head, “Write about what you know.” Fletcher’s magical memory faded away as he opened his eyes and stared at the swaying trees outside of duct tape covered window.

He stood up, walked to the kitchen and filled a glass with water from the tap because filtered water was becoming too expensive. Fletcher chugged the whole glass in one breath and placed it in the sink with a clunk that rattled the other dishes that had piled up in the sink. His grandfather’s words replayed themselves over and over, each time becoming fainter. Fletcher sat down on the couch and pondered what he knew, before his grandfather’s words faded completely. He laid down on the dusty sofa and grabbed a pillow to prop up his head from the hard-backed wooden chair next to the couch. He dug his finger into one of the many rips and moved it around in the cottony foam with hypothesizing circles. Fletcher's sleep-deprived eyes closed on their own and soon the chirps of bluebirds faded away with Fletcher’s consciousness.

Fletcher was a little boy again, sharing a room with his grandfather. The single twin bed was pushed against the farthest corner, but there was still only room for a small closet and Oliver’s wooden desk. Oliver was in the twin bed, laying on his side with his head propped up by a bony hand. Fletcher was standing in the doorway, one hand on the light blue rocket patterned wallpaper above the light switch.

“You ready, Grandpa?” he called across the room. “Go for it,” Oliver laughed, his deep voice still youthful and smooth. Fletcher flicked the light switch down and the room plummeted into blackness that was terrifying to a little boy.  He took three quick steps on the threadbare carpet, his bare feet thumping quietly. When the bed loomed above his head, Fletcher leaped onto the comforter, his heart clenching in his chest as his foot brushed the underside of the bed. He nestled into his grandfather’s warm arms and buried his flushed face in Oliver’s thin chest. “The monsters won’t get you now,” his grandfather whispered into Fletcher’s light brown hair, causing a grin to spread across his freckled face.

The scene inside Fletcher’s head faded and morphed into a sunny day at the creek. Fletcher, a few years older, was crouched on a sunlit rock above his grandfather. He was drawing swirls and shapes in the dry dirt. “Come on down here, boy,” Oliver called, his voice like two rocks grinding against each other. Fletcher’s grandfather was holding two sheets of paper in his hand, and smiling a mischievous smile. Fletcher scampered down off the rock and stood at his grandfather’s side. “Take this and follow what I do,” Oliver commanded, handing Fletcher one sheet of paper and beginning to fold the other into different shapes. Fletcher creased and smoothed out his paper many times before his grandfather’s hand was placed over his own and guided him to form a perfect little paper boat.

“Let’s sail them, Grandpa,” Fletcher said excitedly and made his way toward the fast moving stream.

“Hold your horses, Fletch,” Oliver chimed and scooped the little boy up with one arm. “We have to waterproof them first.” Oliver pulled his lighter and a candle out of his jacket pocket and handed the candle to Fletcher, who stared at it with a confused frown. His grandfather lite the candle and guided Fletcher’s hands towards his boat. “When the wax starts to melt, drip it onto the bottom and sides of your boat.” Fletcher obeyed and soon his boat was coated in hardening red wax.

“Now can I sail it?” Fletcher asked.

“First we have to fill it,” Oliver’s eyes twinkled as he pulled colorful beads, hard candies and a variety of miniature trinkets out of his other jacket pocket.

“Fill it? Why?” Fletcher inquired.

“For the village down the stream, of course!” Oliver laughed. “When you have gifts, it’s your job to share them with whomever needs them more than you.”

Fletcher nodded with wide eyes. He reached into his own pocket and pulled out something which he held in a closed fist. “I’m gonna’ send this down the river, Grandpa.” Fletcher opened his hand to reveal a jet black, shiny shark’s tooth that he had found in the bottom of a creek. Oliver’s smile widened and he hugged Fletcher proudly.

“That’s my boy,” he said and delicately placed the tooth snugly in the corner of Fletcher’s boat where it would not fall out. They continued to fill the boats with trinkets, and placed them gently in the river where the wind quickly carried them out of view. Fletcher watched in awe as the paper boats disappeared. Giving up his treasure felt better than keeping it buried in the lint of his pocket.

Fletcher smiled in his sleep dreaming of his grandfather’s kindness and wisdom. He rolled over to his side and hugged his pillow close to his heart as another scene formed in his mind. He was at his first concert, excited to see his favorite band, playing live. Their lead drummer, Alastair Blaze, was Fletcher’s childhood idol. In his mind, Fletcher watched as Blaze played his solo, drumsticks blurring together as he moved from drum to cymbol. The audience went crazy. Fletcher’s eyes gleamed with joy as he played the air drums, swinging his fists all around. Oliver tried to wrap his arm around Fletcher’s shoulders, but Fletcher was too tall, so Oliver settled for Fletcher’s waist. Oliver had a horrible headache from the loud punk music, but Fletcher had wanted to see the band more than anything for his sixteenth birthday, and Oliver had agreed to take him.

Oliver leaned up on tip-toe and pulled Fletcher down. “The next concert I go to, I want to see you up there,” he shouted, not sure if Fletcher could hear him above the roar. That night, after the concert, Fletcher went to bed with the glorious sound of a drumbeat in his head while Oliver went to bed with a pain in his chest. The next morning, Fletcher was awakened by sirens and blinking red and blue lights of an ambulance. His unconscious grandfather lay on a stretcher that was being loaded into the vehicle. Later, Fletcher was told that Oliver had died of a heart attack that morning.

Fletcher opened his eyes and shot off the couch like a runner off the block. He peered outside and saw the pale pink and purple sky behind the retreating sun. His wife would be arriving home soon and still he had not written a word. Fletcher sat down at his desk, ripped a new sheet of paper out of his notebook, and smoothed it out on the desk. This time, the paper seemed to encourage him to write. Fletcher delicately picked up a black felt-tipped pen and uncapped it with his teeth. The ink flowed smoothly across the paper, turning empty space into art. “Once upon a time there was a little boy who loved his grandfather very much…”


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