When I first invited others to share their short fiction with me, I imagined posting one or two of my own short stories per week, along with several other pieces not written by me. I imagined a flash fiction community. That’s what I wanted, anyway. I can’t exactly complain at the lack of a thriving community, however, since I’ve been remiss in posting my own work. I have posted only one of my own stories on this blog, Murphy’s Law; and just one on my other blog, Oh, Sublime! Oh, Gothic! Oh, New Mexico! I might have posted others, but alas, if I have, I’ve forgotten about them.
Why might others want to submit writing to my blog? If you’re a writer and don’t desire to post fiction on your own blog, or don’t want the responsibility of maintaining a blog at all, then this is the place for you. At this point, I’ll tentatively post flash fiction on Tuesdays and keep Fridays open for my New Mexico Noir serial novel.
Now it’s time to move on to the story. I want to thank Robert Stubblefield for submitting two stories. Robert is a writer and photographer living in Auckland, New Zealand, and has his own flash fiction blog, Tales From a Godless Monkey. Today, I’ll post his story, My Encounter with Albert:
It has long been a habit of mine to take solitary walks in a wooded area near my home. I find that it clears my mind of the daily clutter and invigorates me.
It was on such a walk not long ago that I saw a man sitting on a bench. He was leaning forward bent over his cane. He was dressed in tweeds and sported a nautical fob at the end of a braided gold chain that disappeared into his vest. All this topped with a most admirable fedora complete with silk band and feather.
As I approached he seemed to take no notice of me and I heard him talking in a low voice and glancing to one side as though in conversation with someone. I sat down at a discreet distance and listened. It’s not my habit to intrude but I was so struck by the scene it seemed the thing to do.
“Aye, William, that was a fine mess we were in then, wasn’t it?”
He chuckled and seemed to be listening. At intervals he nodded his head.
“We were always up for it, weren’t we? Sometimes I wonder that we got away with the things we did. Would but that we could do it all again, eh?”
This went on for several minutes as I sat and looked about discretely. At last he glanced in my direction and cocked one eye. I smiled and said hello but he seemed disinclined to acknowledge me and looked down at the ground.
I thought perhaps I should leave but he began his peculiar conversation again and I felt compelled to remain.
“Yes, William, it was indeed a fierce one. We gave as good as we got, and all the better for that.”
This went on for several more minutes until finally he took one hand off his cane and balled it up and shook it at the ether. As I was contemplating what it might all be about I saw a solitary tear run down his cheek and he sobbed quietly.
Taken aback I wondered if I shouldn’t take my leave discreetly but he turned to me and nodded his head. I took that as a sign he was in need of companionship and moved closer.
“My name is Charles. I’m sorry if I’m intruding, but I noticed you talking as I came along the path. I hope you don’t mind, I mean no offence.”
He shook his head slowly but wouldn’t meet my eyes.
“Albert. Albert Hawley. Not in the least, young man. You live hereabouts, do you?”
“Yes, just over the hill a ways. I often walk here, though I’ve never seen you before.”
“No. No, you wouldn’t at that. Never mind. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
He offered his gnarled hand and we shook.
“Might I enquire…”
“I was doing what foolish old men are prone to do, I’m afraid. I was reminiscing about things long past. The war actually, you see. I had a mate was stationed with me. He was killed at the Battle of Okinawa. I miss him to this day.”
“Oh, I see. I’m sorry for your loss.”
I didn’t know what else to say but immediately felt foolish just the same. We talked a bit longer and then he rose slowly and tipped his fedora.
“Young man, do not be influenced by the actions of a doddering old fool. I don’t know what you do with your time in the main, though walking in the woods is always a good thing, but I’ll leave you with this thought for your kindness in stopping to be with me. Do not burden yourself with regrets. Live every moment as though it were your last and always go first in the world. Fear is your only true enemy. I wish you well.”
With that he turned and headed down the path and I for my part felt a small blessing had been bestowed on me by the enigma that is the universe.