Good People

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
As a man who doesn't really understand his own life, Charlie is just ambling along, until something comes and changes his perspective.

Submitted: May 28, 2013

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Submitted: May 28, 2013

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Good People

 

Charlie Sumner tightened his lips into a thin line while looking at the different sets of dead bouquets in the forgotten drugstore on the corner. There were red flowers, white flowers, and yellow flowers, but there was no way to really know what to pick. If he bought the red flowers, she’d have preferred the white ones. If he bought the white ones, she’d have preferred the yellow ones. No decision would be a good one. While the colors swirled in front of Charlie’s eyes, he rubbed his tightened chest.

Only moments later, Charlie stood at the checkout counter, crunching the bouquet of yellow flowers while he handed the young cashier a ten dollar bill. After receiving his change, he turned to go when a small boy down one of the aisles caught his eye. The child couldn’t have been more than eight, and he wore ripped clothes and was dirty from head to toe. Charlie was surprised that they hadn’t thrown him out of here until he could clean himself up. The boy walked up the counter carrying a glass with a red Coca Cola logo and a fistful of change.

After he put the glass and the money on the counter, the cashier counted it and then said “Sorry, Jem, there’s not enough here.”

The boy gathered his coins, shoved them into his pocket, and answered “Okay.” He then picked up the glass and headed back down the aisle.

For goodness sake, Charlie thought as he headed over behind the boy. Charlie came stood directly behind the boy, who turned around and stared.

Charlie held out his leftover dollar bills. “Here ya go, son. For your glass.”

Jem gave him a toothy grin. “No thankya, Sir. I got some yard workin’ to do this week, I’ll earn it then.”

Charlie was unsure of how to respond, but he just put the bills back in his pocket. “Where’s your mother, boy?”

“Not here now. But she wouldn’t go too far.”

“What’s your name?”

“Jeremiah. But Jem for shortenin’. What yours, Sir?”

“Mr. Sumner.”

“That’sa nice name. I was name after that movie they made ‘bout those mountain men.”

Just then, the doorbell rang towards the front and a woman stepped through. She wore jeans also and a white tank top, but her face was sallow and she had lemon-sucking expression. When she saw the two talking, she walked over and sneered at Charlie.

“What you doin’, Mister?”

Charlie shrugged. “Just chatting with this boy, here. Looked like he could use a little help.”

“Yeah? Well, he’s my boy and he don’t need no help.”

The woman held out her hand, which Jem reached over and took, and they both walked away and out of the store.

Only mere minutes later, Charlie was pulling onto his gravel road. After cutting the engine and trying to straighten out the ugly flowers as best as he could, he got out of the car and headed up to the house that looked more like a log cabin. Not his first choice, but Camille insisted on it when she saw it. It was small enough to look in the windows and see if there was any light or shadows that would indicate a body, and from that Charlie could see that Camille was not inside, so he walked around the side of the house and towards the open backyard.

“Camille?”

He finally found her lying in the grass. She had taken off her flowery blue dress that she always wore and was on the ground in nothing but her slip.

Charlie rushed over. “Camille! What are you doing without your dress?”

She opened her eyes, then scrunched them up, and smiled at him. “It was such a pretty day. I couldn’t stand to be so cut off.”

He took her arm and pulled her from the ground. “Well, put it back on! We do have neighbors. They probably already think we’re a couple of looney tunes, thanks to you.”

“You don’t understand Charlie. You never understand.”

“Here”, Charlie said as he picked up her dress that lay a few feet away and helped her put it on. He then picked up the flowers that he had dropped to the ground. “These are for you.”

Camille took the bouquet, looking like she wanted to cry. “They’re dead.”

Charlie sighed. “I know. That dumb drugstore always sells the worst crap. Probably should have driven into town.”

Camille shook her head. “No, I mean their murdered. Somebody ripped them from the ground and killed them. What’s the point of giving someone flowers? Aren’t they much prettier if they stay in their homes and grow into shining beauties?”

Charlie shook his head, nearly numb to his wife’s senseless babble that he had grown accustomed to. He gently reached out and took her arm to lead her into the house.

???

Nearly a week later, Camille stood humming in the kitchen with her iron board set up and one of Charlie’s work shirts.

“You know, dear, I think I might like some ice cream.”

Charlie called back from the living room. ‘We don’t have any.”

“I know, but I’d like some.”

Charlie audibly sighed, but said nothing. Only a moment later he appeared in the kitchen doorway. He put his hand on his mouth to suppress a cough. “I think I might be getting sick.”

Camille kept humming and ironing, apparently not having heard.

Charlie rubbed his eyes and some sweat dripped into them. “Want me to go get you some ice cream?”

“If that’s what you want.”

 

Charlie was back in his BMW and was pulling into the drugstore parking lot. He stopped, his head spinning, and rested his forehead on the dashboard. Deciding that he would take a nap later, he finally reached for the door handle.  Just as he exited the car, the drugstore door opened and Jem walked out.

“Hi.” Jem was holding the Coca Cola glass that he had fingered last week.

Charlie walked up. “Hello. I see you got your cup.”

Jem nodded. “Saved up money from yard workin’.”

“So, is it a gift for your mom?”

Jem shook his head.

“Well, what’s it for?”

“It’s for me. I gots a whole bunch.”

“Well, if you have so many, why did you want another one?”

“’Cause it’s mine that I boughts with my own money.”

“What are you going to do with it?”

“Put it next to the others.”

 “Kind of pointless, isn’t it?”

“Not to me.”

Charlie shrugged and said goodbye to Jem then, hoping that the boy’s mother was somewhere nearby. He then went inside and tried to figure out what kind of ice cream to buy. Banana was disgusting and chocolate tasted funny and vanilla was boring. Or wait, did she like vanilla?

He decided to just grab the vanilla, then went over to the counter and paid. While walking towards the door, he stopped to rub his chest, as he was having trouble breathing for some reason. Dizzy, he put his hand on the side of the counter while he tried clear his head.

The cashier popped her gum. “You okay, Sir?”

Charlie took a deep breath. “Fine.”

He then straightened himself up and headed towards his car. Upon arriving home and walking into the house, the tub of ice cream in his arm, he found Camille sitting cross-legged on the living room floor.

“What are you doing, honey?”

Camille did not open her eyes. “Listening. Can you hear it? It’s so beautiful.”

Charlie covered his mouth to suppress another cough. “Hear what?”

“Music.”

Charlie walked over and took her hands, slowly lifting her to her feet. He wiped his hand across his sweating forehead and then, noticing that her face was somewhat pale, put his hand to her forehead.

“You’re warm. Are you feeling okay?”

Camille nodded. “Yes. Charlie, you always worry so much, you never experience life. Just look around you and listen. It’s all so beautiful.”

Charlie coughed again. “I know, honey. I’ve got your ice cream. It’s vanilla.”

Camille scrunched up her face.

“What’s wrong? I can make you a bowl.”

“Vanilla seems so ordinary. Like my life with you.”

Charlie flinched back, unsure of how to respond at first. “Would you have preferred chocolate?”

Camille sighed but did not answer. She then went and sat back onto the kitchen floor.

Charlie went and put the ice cream in the freezer, and then came back into the living room. “If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’m going to rest upstairs.”

Camille, breathing heavily, kept her eyes closed.

“Camille?”

She opened her eyes.

“I’m going to rest upstairs.”

She closed her eyes again. “Okay.”

Seconds later, Charlie was jogging up the stairs, almost not making it to the bathroom. When he did, everything that had been inside him for the last few days came out in a plunder into the toilet. Afterwards, he made his way into the bedroom across the hall, nearly hyperventilating, clutching one am around his middle that was still burning with some kind of angry flame.

In response to the resounding pain that was starting in his head, Charlie rubbed his other hand across his forehead, gritting his teeth, with tears nearly coming to his eyes. He felt as if he would throw up again, and yet he had nothing left. He picked up the nearest object, a hairbrush, and threw it into the hallway, hoping Camille would hear it. He waited seconds more, with the pangs of pain in his stomach and his head somehow growing stronger, but he heard no footsteps on the stairs.

“Camille?” he asked, but his voice did not sound like his own. It sounded as if it came from a man thirty years his senior.

Then, Charlie was overcome with a need to lie down, to ease the pains that were aching his body, and so he did, and finally, somehow, his felt the pain start to dissipate and disappear. In fact, he felt nothing at all. His chest was exploding and yet his mind was transported into some kind of dream world where he saw only shapes and colors and images but nothing concrete. Feeling free and euphoric somehow, better than he had ever felt, Charlie allowed himself to be swept into this dream world where he entered into a place that seemed to be free of the entanglements of a normal life, like pain and confusion and flowered dresses.

 


© Copyright 2020 AnnieFulton. All rights reserved.

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