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March 2008 Flashers

Flash Fiction written by members and friends of the MuseItUp Club. Submissions are invited for this page.*

 

 

 

Passing Thoughts

 

by Les Stephenson

 

 

Tuesday night's downpour had left the gardens sodden and water pooled on the roads.

 

I make the half-hour drive, Heatherton to the tiny village of Thruville, every second Wednesday and deliver my aged aunt to her quilting club meeting. Doris, my cousin, takes her on the alternate weeks.

 

Usually, I sit in my Pajero and read a book for the three hours. I don't mind waiting, it gives me time to read in peace, without interruptions. Yesterday was different. I'd skipped breakfast and, worried my blood sugar might drop, decided to drive further to the nearby town of Coverdale, and buy a pizza. It's only a matter of fifteen minutes on an open stretch of road, so I knew time wasn't an issue. I flipped open my mobile phone and rang ahead to order a medium vegetarian special with anchovies.

 

Beyond Thruville, I passed a van on the verge of the road, bogged in the mud. An old VW Combi, it preached "PEACE" in large letters scrawled between flower-power symbols. I'd owned something similar back in the 1970s. Ah, those were the days.

 

Someone sat in the driver's seat; man or woman I couldn't tell. I remember thinking I would stop and offer help on the way back if they were still there. Without food in me, I'd be of no use beforehand, anyway.

 

Later, water across the road slowed me down.  A woman, head covered by a wide-brimmed straw hat and wearing an ankle-length skirt that skimmed the water, walked ahead of me down the centre of the road. She carried a long slim package wrapped in an old blanket.

 

I hit the horn with a double toot, but she didn't seem to notice. As I pulled past to her left, she jumped a little with a start, belatedly acknowledging my presence. She turned towards me and her distressed demeanour pinched my heart. She needs help, I thought.

 

I decided to stop and offer her a lift.

 

The woman looked at me - sad, blue orbs in a timeworn face - she'd been crying; her eyes were watery and cheeks red. "Thank you," she said, "but this is rather wet and smelly."

 

"What is it?" I asked, hoping she didn't mind my curiosity.

 

Tears started down her cheeks as she sobbed the words: "My dog. He died. I was taking him home to bury, but the van got stuck."

 

I had an old tarp in the back, so I laid it out behind the seats and then helped her place the burden down. When I indicated she sit beside me in the front of the car, she wiped her hands and face with the worn looking brown shawl she had over her shoulders. I offered her a few paper tissues.

 

"I think I passed your van, earlier. One with flowers and peace written on it?" She nodded behind the tissues.

 

I put the car in gear, then realised I didn't know where I was going. "Where do I take you?" I asked.

 

 "Coverdale. It's an old house just this side of town."

 

She was quiet until I pulled up in front of the old place. The iron roof looked rusted and patched, but the front porch had a lived-in look, adorned with potted plants and wind chimes.

 

"I'll be returning this way in a few minutes," I said. "Would you like me to take you back to the van and help you dig it out?"

 

"Don't bother!" The outburst left her red-faced and shaking. "Sorry, you've been a kind man. That old fool killed my dog. Said we couldn't afford to feed it anymore, then chased Blue away so he got run over by a truck. I hate him!"

 

I waited a moment, hoping I looked as sympathetic as I felt.

 

"Don't help him. He'll find his way home sooner or later, and come begging for my forgiveness. In the meantime please let him suffer."

 

In Coverdale I collected my vegetarian pizza with anchovies and headed back toward Thruville. As I went by the old house, I tooted the car's horn. The woman waved from where she stood in the garden with a spade. A grave for the dog, I assumed.

 

When I passed the VW van, still stuck on the side of the road, an old man was trying to hitch a ride. I didn't stop.

 

 

Les Stephenson

 

 

Les had the honour of an invitation to join The Muse Marquee at its onset. From the humble beginnings of his column "Up From Down Under" he has graduated to compiling and editing both the Flashers and the Poets Page. Occasionally, he sneaks a piece from his own keyboard into one of the latter two.

 

 

*Send Flash Fiction submissions to underamuse@yahoo.com.au .

Please include the words “Muse Marquee Flash Submission” in the subject line.

 

The Flashers page is edited by Lea Schizas and Les Stephenson.