For the first time, I’m trying out Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge — it was a neat experience to write a story based for the prompt. This Fandango’s #111 Challenge, and it presents the photo prompt below. For more info on the challenge, check out the blog entry. #FFFC
Pamela had teased him: buying a gift card would’ve saved frustration. Russell agreed with his wife. Yet the easy solution wasn’t always the best solution.
This errand was such a case. For years, Russell offered no suggestions for their daughter’s birthday presents, while Pamela handled choosing and buying them. Russell’s focus was on his job, performing what he was good at, what he thought a husband/father should do for his family. His successes in business management brought in quite nice paychecks.
Now retired, Russell wanted to be more hands-on. Gone was the opportunity to broaden from acting mostly as a weekend parent, since Bridget was about to turn 46, and lived in another city with a family of her own. (One wondered: did being an only child motivate Bridget to have two kids? Really didn’t matter. Kyle and Eddie were wonders of grandchildren.)
At the used bookstore, Russell walked past the sections he visited for himself (biographies, business) and for Pamela (mysteries), to the section he visited once a year. He studied the titles on the book spines of the shelves in the science-fiction section. Here was the yearly hunt for a book he hoped Bridget had not read. Always a shot in the dark, as she was well-read.
Yet again, he marveled over the difference of reading tastes. Russell couldn’t understand why his daughter preferred mind-bending fiction to other books. But then, how did she become a physicist with parents like hers? Of course, life doesn’t have to make logical sense. Russell and Pamela didn’t try to raise a daughter to be a carbon copy of one of them. (If they did, the logical choice would’ve been Pamela as the template.)
Life had progressed the way it did, and Russell tried to make peace with it. Sure, he had regrets. Wished he had been present more while Bridget was growing up. But time machines only existed in stories. And he had made up for lost time through frequent visits to Bridget and her family. A keen pleasure to visit with them, chat about a variety of topics, and spoil Kyle and Eddie.
Another keen pleasure to stand in this store, inhaling the musty smell. The combined aroma of knowledge, imagination, history. Russell refused to buy current books for his daughter. Far better to reach into the past for what older writers had invented to bend minds with fiction.
Russell pulled out several books and read the descriptions on their back covers or inside flaps, then slid them back into their spaces on the shelves. The next book he checked was To Feed Upon Stars. The front cover’s artwork of a human silhouette filled with stars was calmer than the other, lurid covers. The description seemed promising: a ship-full of astronauts dealing with a strange entity in far space, an entity that explored their minds for memories.
A plot that Russell guessed Bridget would enjoy. Victorious, he walked to the mystery section.
copyright © 2021 Dave Williams