This weeks #FridayFlash turns away from horror and moves in a more real, more disturbing direction. This is one of my favorite stories, at least of those that I have written. I hope you enjoy it.
by Jason Warden
The chains were rusting beneath their rubber green covering. He had suspected it, and the dirty orange water that spilled from the bottom confirmed it as he sat down in the swing. A little got on his pants, but he made no effort to stop it. He just let it soak in, and after a minute he felt the cold wetness reach his skin. It was comforting. He wondered how many days the girls had felt this sensation. They had never complained about it, and so he wouldn’t either. Coming wasn’t painless, but he felt close to them here, and that made it worth everything. He had to move on, had to tell them.
The Sherriff came to the door the evening she took them.
“What happened? Where are they?” Dave asked.
“There’s been an accident,” Jim’s uniform didn’t help him meet Dave’s eyes.
“Is it Dana–the girls? Damn it, tell me.” He grabbed Jim’s jacket. “Please tell me they’re ok.”
“Dana lost control. The car rolled several tim—.”
Dave couldn’t breathe. He collapsed against the sheriff, “No, No No-no.”
Jim held him; it was all he could do.
When Dana left treatment, claiming sobriety, Dave hoped for reconciliation. They sat and Dave considered the cost of hope.
“Did you know she was using again?” Jim asked.
“She was high? Her meetings—Oh God—Jim, I let them go. I let them go with her, how do I live with that?”
No answer came and they sat in silence. Finally, Dave said, “Just go, please. Just go.”
The sheriff left, but returned the next day. Dave’s hair was matted. His eyes, bloodshot and swollen, flashed to the Ziploc bag in Jim’s hand. Dave didn’t speak, just took the bag and shut the door. He didn’t want comfort, his pain was personal. It was all he had.
He sat on the couch and looked at the bag. Shelley’s doll was damaged; a deep scratch ran down the side her face. Sophia’s bear was unmarked. How tightly had the twins held on to these treasures in the final moments? Did they feel each other’s fear as well as their own? Finally, he opened the bag and held his face to the opening. The smell brought love, and pain. He pressed the bear tighter and tighter to his face, and screamed. The bear muffled his cries. Finally, his face red and his voice hoarse, he slept. Their treasures slept with him, still in the bag.
Dave stared at the small caskets until he was alone. The accident, the wake, the guilt, weighed on him, and crushed his very will. He stood holding all that was left of them. He had intended to leave the bag, but he could not. He walked home. The rain fell disguising his tears.
The bag sat on top of the television, a talisman of memories. He wanted to hold the smell in, savor it, and remember it, but every time he went to the bag and opened it, he knew he was losing little pieces of them. How long before the smell of them is gone? It was a question he didn’t want to consider.
He stood at the refrigerator door, thinking of missed opportunities to spend time with the girls. Opportunities that were now lost forever. He grabbed a beer, drank it, set the empty can down, and then just took the box. On the way to the living room, he grabbed a bag of Cheetos from the pantry. Sophia’s favorite, he thought, and turned on the television.
He drank until he could no longer sit upright, felt around in the cushions, couldn’t find the remote, and decided it wasn’t important. He prayed the dreams would stay away as he drifted off. Once more though, his dreams were of the twins, taken from him so soon.
They were learning to swing on their own. He was proud, but felt a loss. They would no longer need his strong hands to push them. He watched, smiling, as the joyful tears streamed down his face.
The whine of an approaching engine violated the calm. He ran, but moved too late, he was only three steps from the porch when the car bounced through the privacy fence. It bore down on the girls.
Sophia was down, Shelly was up, their legs kicking to propel them ever higher.
Too slow, I’m too slow.
He saw Dana, her knuckles white on the wheel.
“You bitch,” he screamed. “No!”
Dave tripped on the raised stone pathway and fell. He heard the screech of metal, and lifted his head. A white sandal landed in front of him, its buckles busted.
He woke, the pillow was wet on his cheek, the unvoiced scream deafening inside his head. The arms of the couch were smeared orange, the room, littered with empty cans. The dream was a lie, but it might as well of been truth. He hated Dana for both.
Dave sat up and went to the T.V. He held the bag again, feeling the softness of the contents through the plastic covering. He froze when he felt the hard object inside the bag. The remote: since the accident, he had found it in all of its familiar hiding places, under cushions and pillows, on top of cabinets and dressers, and now, here.
The T.V was off now. He almost turned it back on. Instead, he left the remote, took the bag, and walked to the door. The summer sun warmed his skin as he walked outside.
“Its ok girls, Daddy will be alright, I love you.” He thought he might be later, but he didn’t want them to see him like this anymore.
He sat in the middle swing, his feet scraping the bare spots in the grass their small feet had made. Tears coursed down his cheeks, and his throat tightened as the breeze pushed the swings on either side into motion.