Gary woke up from the nightmare in a cold sweat. It was the same dream every night for the past week. He saw a man burning. The burning man was wailing. He reached out for Gary. His flaming hand almost touching his face.
Then Gary would wake up in a cold sweat.
He had just gotten his first job out of college as a mechanical engineer. The company had him move to Philadelphia, and for the next year, he would be helping to design a new generation of popcorn maker for movie theaters.
“It’s probably just the move. I’m in a strange place. That’s it.”
Gary got out of bed, then looked at the clock, and realized it was only 4 a.m. He could sleep for another few hours.
“Nah.” He headed toward the bathroom of his studio apartment. “Just have to keep drinking coffee to keep going.”
“No! No! No! No! They can’t be dead. They can’t be.”
The hospital. My son and daughter-in-law are in ICU. The car wreck. They survived, but my grandchildren…eight year old Patrick, 2 year old Sarah…they’re dead. They’re dead.
I’ve been a failure all my life. I’ve been a failure as a husband, a father, a provider. I’ve tried to live a normal life, to keep my family safe, to keep anyone from finding out about me. But that was a mistake.
I had the power to save their lives and I let that bitch tell me I wasn’t worthy of using it.
© Liz Young
I used to be like this junk. Drinking, smoking, a broken plastic person. A terrible father. A worse husband. Disreputable, divorced, self-destructive. But that’s before they were born. My grandchildren. They made me believe in myself because they believe in me. Now the man I was is just like this stuff, discarded. I’m sitting on this hill watching them frolic on the playground in the park below.
“C’mon down and play with us,” Johnny shouts.
“Yeah, Grandpa. Push me on the swing,” Cindy adds.
I stand up and walk toward my redemption.
Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Friday Fictioners challenge. Based on the photo prompt above, you’re supposed to write a complete story of no more than 100 words. Mine came in at 93.
To read more stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.
I published The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us yesterday but not any sort of explanation about where the story came from or why I wrote it (except on Facebook and Google+).
I consider it one of my best efforts but it doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of love so far. Probably one of the reasons is that it’s over 5700 words long, basically a short story or a book chapter. Who’s got the time, right?
This story is different. It’s personally important to me. I’ve invested a lot of emotion in it. I wrote it for my seven-year-old grandson.
He’s really imaginative and every time I see him, he wants to play our “game”. Our game is a talking game. He assigns us both roles and then we make up an adventure. In our current game, I am “Grandpa” (no surprise there) and he is my pet “Honey Dragon”.
Actually, the term “pet” is a bit of a misnomer since the dragon is supposed to be thousands of years old and know all kinds of arcane magical spells.
Our game scenarios are highly derivative. He pulls a lot of his ideas from “Harry Potter” and I pull mine from all kinds of comic books, science fiction stories, TV shows, and films.
I’ve tried to write a story for him before, but I couldn’t get the hang of it. However, our current series of adventures spawned an idea, a story about a boy and his dragon.
On a perfect morning when I have to take my grandkids to daycare, I have everything set up before they’re awake.
My son makes Landon’s green smoothie and Dani’s bottle before he leaves for work, so I don’t have to worry about forgetting to put probiotics or whatever in their breakfast.
Landon is easy. He’s seven-years-old and all I have to do is wake him up and make sure he’s rolling. Dani’s just 13-months-old and needs a lot more attention.
After I get Landon up and make sure he’s out of bed, I go to Dani’s bedroom. Most of the time, she wakes up and she’s crying to be let out of prison…uh, her crib. She looks so pathetic and adorable with tears in her eyes, even after I pick her up.
Sometimes, she’s still asleep and I have to gently wake her up by rubbing her back. Even when she wakes and starts crying, it takes her ten or fifteen minutes to become completely alert.
This morning, when I went into her room, she was awake and standing, but not crying at all. It was like she was just waiting for me.
I usually pick her up and start talking to her. I walk through the kitchen, making sure Landon’s at the table with his breakfast, then take her to the windows facing the back yard. This time of year, it’s still low light between six and six-thirty, and it’s easy on her eyes as we greet the morning together.
Sometimes she smiles, I’m not sure at what, as she looks outside.