flash fiction

A Better Understanding

Eric reluctantly walked into Mr. Walker’s class.

“I’m glad you decided to stay for detention instead of making it worse,” Mr. Walker said, looking up from his desk.  Eric walked past his seat in the front row to the back of the room and sat down, not responding.  Mr. Walker looked at Eric, as if to say something, but he went back to working on his papers.

“Well, I’m here,” Eric said, throwing his hands up.  “You won.  Give me some work or something.”

Mr. Walker put his pen down, picked up a stack of papers on his desk, and stood up.  “I’m just trying to help you, Eric.  It’s not my…”

“Look, I don’t need your help,” Eric said defensively.

Year after year, school after school, teacher after teacher, that’s all he was…someone that needed help.  Another project.  Another young man from the streets that some stuck up, well bred, college educated teacher could help in order to make themselves feel better over dinner conversations with their friends.  Only four weeks into school and Eric had already been suspended once for fighting and a handful of detentions for tardies and mouthing off.

Eric knew he had problems.  They were his problems.   He didn’t need anybody to fix him.  He didn’t want anybody to try.

Mr. Walker stopped at the front of the row.  “Look, Eric.  I’m not sure why you went off today in my class.  I didn’t push Vice-Principal Harmon to give you a suspension, cause missing school doesn’t do you any good.  I think you are capable of the work.  I just want to try and understand a little more what I can do…”

“You don’t need to understand anything,” Eric snapped.  “All you need to do is give me my work and leave me alone.”

Mr. Walker looked, again, like he wanted to say something.  It seemed Mr. Walker always wanted to say something.  Like there was something on his mind that he needed to share with Eric, but never did.

Just give me the stupid work, Mr. Walker.  Don’t try to figure me out.  You don’t know me.  You don’t know nothing about me.

Mr. Walker took off his glasses, wiped them on the back of his tie and put them back on.

Don’t say anything else Mr. Walker.  Just let me be.

“Look Eric, I just…”

“Damn it, man,” Eric said, standing, pushing the desk aside and starting down the row.  “Why can’t you just let me be.  I told you, I don’t need your help and I don’t want your help.”.

Mr. Walker stood his ground at the end of the row, but made room so Eric could pass.

“I can’t let you be Eric, because I care.  Why is that so hard for you to believe?” Mr. Walker asked.  Eric felt a hint of sincerity, but his anger let it slide.

“Ain’t no way you have any clue what I’m going through.  You can’t even pretend to know anything about me,” Eric said, stopping short of the door, moving closer to Mr. Walker.  “Just leave me…”

“Sorry to drop in on you honey, but we…” a lady said walking into the classroom.  “Oh my goodness, I am so sorry.  I didn’t know you would have a student with you.”

“It’s no problem.  Pam, this is one of my students, Eric, we were just talking about some assignments he is working on,” Mr. Walker said.  Eric stood, speechless.  He looked at Mr. Walker and again at Mr. Walker’s wife.  It didn’t add up.

Pam reached out her hand, “Oh, so this is Eric.  My husband has mentioned you a few times.  He’s excited about teaching you this year.”

Eric extended his hand out of reflex.  What was she talking about, ‘Excited about teaching you this year?’  As Eric shook her hand, feeling the touch of her skin that was the same as his, he felt a ping of guilt.  He had felt a lot of emotions in the recent past, but he didn’t remember feeling guilt.  It felt different, real.  “It’s nice to meet you,” he replied, letting go.

Pam turned to leave, “I’ll let you guys get back to what you were doing.  I’ll wait in the faculty lounge for you.  Sorry to interrupt.”

“It’s no problem.  I shouldn’t be too much longer,” Mr. Walker said.  “Besides,” he added, looking at Eric, “I think your visit was the pause our conversation needed to help us…refocus the discussion.”

Eric looked at Mr. Walker’s wife and then back to Mr. Walker, nodding.  After his wife left, Mr. Walker turned to Eric and waited.

After a short pause, Eric quietly made his way to his seat in the front row, Mr. Walker handed him the stack of papers, and Eric started on his work.


Happy New Year?


The sound slowly woke Hunter.  

It echoed in his ears, his head pulsing with pain.  He tried to open his eyes, but couldn’t.  Sweaty and fully dressed, he lay in his bed on top the covers, the sun beating in through the windows.

“Ugh,” he moaned, reaching up to the nightstand to grab his phone.  His fingers searched the dirty shelf, locating it.  Slowly, he brought the screen to his face.  Why did his head hurt?  Why was he still dressed?

“Ow-ow-ow,” he continued, rolling on his back, pulling the blanket up over his face to shield it from the light.   His eyes blinked open to bring the small screen into view.
“What the…?”
Hunter sat up, burped, and felt like he would be sick.  The waft of alcohol and vomit coming off of him was strong.  Fingers pushing buttons furiously, he started reading through the messages.
From his friend, Steve…haha – just saw you on the news…way to go!

From a girl in his class, Kara…Seriously dude, I knew you were crazy, but you should win an award for THAT…
From another girl at school, Melissa…didn’t your mom teach you any manners…one thing to be funny, but that was just gross…AND ON TV.  Good luck getting into college, moron!

His mind raced – last night, last night, last night…what happened?  His parents were going to a work party for his dad.  He was going to Brent’s.  At least that’s what he told them.  They wanted him home by 1am.  He didn’t go to Brent’s.  He was sweating even more.
A few more messages, from his best friend, Kyle…I told you not to do it.  so don’t come blaming me.  have your parents seen yet?  CALL ME!!!

From Steve again…NICE, someone has it up on Youtube now.  You are lagit man, for real.  already at like 2k views, and it’s only been a few hours.  #rockstar

There was a link.  Hunter pressed it.  He turned his phone sideways and waited for the the video to load.  He looked at the view count; it was now up to 10,000.  When it loaded, a news reporter stood on a busy street corner, people all around her.  
She started the broadcast, “This is Holly Madsen in downtown with other revelers waiting for midnight to arrive in just under a minute.  Everyone around me seems in high spirits and ready for the New Year.”
“Holy crap,” he whispered, some memory coming back.  They went to Brent’s, but then they took his car, picked up some friends and went downtown.  His parents had told him to stay away from down town.  Brent took some booze from his parents house and they partook to celebrate the New Year.  
Then he saw himself in the video.  Standing right behind the reporter.  He was right there, next to his buddies.    The reporter continued, “Everyone around, help me count down the New Year.”  
The crowd cheered behind her…”10…9…8…7…6…5…4…” 
Hunter watched in horror as he pushed his way up through the crowd, closer to the reporter. 
She continued to smile and yell with the crowd around her.  On the video, Hunter’s mouth wasn’t moving, but his eyes were fixed on the reporter.
“…and one.  Happy New Year!” she shouted, and as soon as she did, Hunter lunged in and gave her a sloppy kiss on the lips.
The reporters face turned quickly to disgust as she stepped back.  The crowd around screamed, egging Hunter on.  Hunter smiled and whooped back to the crowd.  
“Oh no,” he said as he watched himself go in for another smooch.  As he leaned in again he puked all over her.
“Noooooo!” he screamed from his bed and put his hands to his mouth.  The reporter screamed and some in the crowd laughed, others looked ill.  His friends grabbed him quickly and they raced off screen before the video went black.
He lay in bed, helpless, unsure what to do.  There was a knock at the door.
“Hey, Hunter, you okay?”
“Uh…yeah, mom.  Just,” he stammered, wiping his brow, “not feeling so hot.”
“Okay.  Well, Dad and I are going to get breakfast made.  Come on down when you feel like it and tell us about last night.  If it was anything like ours, I bet you had a blast.  Happy New Year!”
“Ha-ha…okay,” he said, dropping his phone in his lap, and putting his head in his hands.

The Best Present

Daddy, you are so silly!

As she read the words, a shutter of remembrance caused a chill, then a tug at her breath.

Then tears.

Wiping her cheek on the back of her sweater, she repositioned herself.  She had been huddled on the couch for two days, wearing the same pajamas.   No work, no calls. no going out.  All she had time for – all she wanted to do – was to go through the box of belongings her father had left her.

There had been moments of deep sadness, wonderful laughter, and curious uncertainty.   It had been a week since since she got the call and three days since the funeral, yet she still wouldn’t admit that he was truly gone.

She picked the diary back up and began again.

December 18th

Today is my little girl’s birthday.  She is so cute.  I love getting up for work in the morning because I’m usually up before anybody else, but by the time I’m out of the shower and dressed and back in the kitchen…there she is.  In her fuzzy jammies, waiting for a hug.  That tangled hair and bright smile.  It makes my day.

When I saw her this morning she was so giggly and I grabbed her and said, in a monster voice, ‘Why are you so giggly?’

‘Daddy, you know why!’

Hmm, I pretended.  ‘Is it because you have frogs in your breeches?” 

She laughed and laughed and I tickled her.

‘Daddy, you are so silly!’

She stopped and, though she was laughing, the tears fell even harder than before.  It was coming back.  Not the exact images, but flashes, glimpses.  Little presents to help her remember.

The phone rang and she wiped her eyes again.  She knew it was her mom checking in on her.  She closed the diary and held it close.  “Thank you,” she whispered, before placing it next to the other memories that her father had taken the time to create for her.

This story is dedicated to my little Jordan (who is not quite so little anymore) on her 6th birthday.  She always likes to tell me just how “silly” I am.  I love you fluffy girl!