Late Arrival

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A very short 3-minute story inspired by a photo, featuring a newspaper seen open on a table through a cafe window.

Submitted: February 14, 2010

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Submitted: February 14, 2010

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The waitress returned from the kitchen with a cup of coffee in hand, only to find her customer’s seat empty. All that remained was his newspaper left open on the café table, a handful of change tossed on the obituary page.

Kevin stood with his hands stuffed in his pant pockets, facing the wind.

“Why am I not surprised he isn’t here,” asked Kevin.

He and Melanie waited atop a mound in the center of an open field. The field was filled with wheat as far as the eye could see. Their route of return from this secluded oasis amidst the golden swaying crops was a two-rut tire path in the dirt.

At the center of the mound stood a gnarly old tree, branches winding in all directions, full with warm yellow and orange foliage. The wind picked up, jostling a round of freshly plucked leaves from their branches. They procrastinated playfully as they fell to the ground.

“He’ll be here,” said Melanie. “If there’s one promise he’s certain to keep, this is it.”

Melanie allowed her thin frame to lean casually against the tree’s trunk. The rough bark soothed the aching in her back. Melanie held a bunch of wheat, meticulously picking wheat berries, one at a time, tossing them into the wind. Her flowing blond hair caught the wind, swaying with the endless wheat, illuminated by the setting sunlight.

Kevin paced in place, uneasy. He checked his watch for the time. Kevin hung his head as he roused the dusty ground with the toe of his boot.

“I knew this was coming,” said Kevin “but I never expected it so soon.”

Melanie placed a bare stalk of wheat between her thin lips as she looked out into the horizon. She placed her hand under her other arm, wrapping herself tightly against the cool evening wind.

“She prepared us for the worst,” said Melanie. “I’m kind of glad its over.”

Kevin approached, removing his denim jacket. He wrapped it around Melanie’s shoulders to keep her warm.

“Its not over until we do this,” said Kevin “but we have to wait for Vince.”

“I know,” said Melanie. “I’m just thankful it didn’t progress slowly. I think this is better for us all.”

Kevin looked up at a branch just overhead. He reached up his hand and wrapped it around the branch, giving it a tug to test its strength.

“Remember how we used to come out here and play on this old tree all day,” asked Kevin. “Those were easier times.”

Kevin placed both hands on the branch and lifted his feet off the ground. He leveraged his body wait the swing and bounce, shaking the leaves from their branch. A shower of colorful leaves fell upon Melanie’s head and shoulders.

Melanie smiled for the first time since Kevin had returned home for this reunion.

Off in the distance, a cloud of dust rose from the path through the wheat fields. Kevin dropped down from the tree to watch the approaching speck grow in size as the dust cloud grew closer.

A helmet-wearing man roared toward the mound on his dirt bike. The bike skids to a stop, kicking up a final puff of dust as he removed his helmet.

“I told you he’d make it,” said Melanie, as Vince climbed the mound from his bike.

The three siblings stood together atop the mound. Melanie removed the lid from an urn as Kevin and Vince held their arms around Melanie, watching their mother’s ashes blend with the wind and the setting sun.


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