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Flash Fiction: Hope Chest

April 11, 2022

Flash fiction is typically stories told in less than 1000 words. Here’s a story in 600 words.

“Dad, this isn’t working.” Diane knew he was dying. Why wouldn’t he admit it? Because he was stubborn. He always had been.

“I’ll be fine.” 

“No, Dad. You won’t be. You aren’t.” Diane reminded herself to stay calm and remain seated on the old plastic chairs in her father’s kitchen. “You fell in the garage.” 

“Workshop,” he corrected her.  

“And that’s another thing. You’re too old to be running those power tools. What if something were to happen?” 

“I’m not finished yet.” 

“This place is too big for you. And since Mom passed I’m worried about you here by yourself. What if you couldn’t reach the phone? Dad, this is the third time I’ve had to come by this month. And it’s not even the 15th.” 

“Janie is going to be eight. It’s an important birthday.” 

Diane rolled her eyes. There he goes again. More and more lately he would suddenly lose his train of thought in the middle of a conversation. “Dad, you need to move to somewhere where you have people around to help. Please will you let me call Sunnybrook?” 

“I wouldn’t have my tools.” 

“Argh. You’ve been dragging them around for years. They are just useless junk at this point!”  

Her father looked at her and his eyes spoke volumes.  

“Dad, don’t be like that. You know I just want what’s best for you.” She could tell that she’d pushed too hard. Maybe Mark was right. He had practically begged her to allow him to draw up the papers to have her dad involuntarily committed.  

“You better get going, sweetie. Mark and Janie will be worried.” 

“Okay, Dad. But, I’m worried. Will you at least consider it?” 

“I have to get back to work.” 

Diane knew he would be headed back out to the garage as soon as she left. He’d putter around with his routers and table saw and the rest of his woodworking equipment. His hands were scarred from years of his woodworking hobby. There was a time when he had made cabinets and desks; bookshelves and various other odds and ends. But, his health was declining fast.  

“I’ll be by tomorrow with dinner. Do you have enough leftovers for today? Maybe I’ll bring Janie.” 

“Yes. I should be finished by then.” 

And again he was off on a wandering trip in his mind. As Diane walked out to her Subaru Outback she could hear the sander start up in the garage.  

The next day the house was suspiciously quiet when she pulled up at 4:00. She’d gotten Janie from school and then picked up the casserole she’d made the night before.  

“Janie, stay in the car.” 

“But, I want to see Papa.” 

“Maybe later. Now I need to you stay here and hold the casserole. Just for a minute.” 

The door opened easily at her touch. 

“Dad?” Her voice echoed through the empty house.  

She found him where she both knew and feared she would. He was seated as if asleep. His chisels laid aside as if to be picked up again after a brief rest.  

Her tears sprang unbidden. The door to the house swung shut behind her as she descended the three steps in the garage. She took his hand and kneeled down beside his chair. The hand was cold. Sawdust clung to his faded blue jeans. It was only then that she noticed what he’d been working on.  

In the middle of the garage, surrounded by bits of wood and the ever present sawdust sat the chest. Three feet long and about half that tall. On the lid was carved the letters J-A-I-N-E above a simple carved heart. Below it was the word H-O-P-E.  

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

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(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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