Flash Fiction Friday: Fourth of July

Fire works 2013 4th of July by Randy Cockrell

Fire works 2013 4th of July by Randy Cockrell

Fourth of July

Ernie lay on his back in bed, left arm under his head propped up on a pillow. He took a drag from the first cigarette of the day as he watched the daylight grow stronger through the pulled shade of the tiny camper he lived in.

He jumped at the sound of poppers in the dirt road that ran past the front of his trailer. A glance at the clock made him groan. Seven-thirty in the morning and the little brats were already out playing with fire works. He flung the sweaty sheet away and stood up. It was a single short step to the screened window. After he pulled the shade aside and winced from the full brunt of the early morning sun in hung-over eyes, he yelled, “Knock it off,” then slammed the window shut.

Ernie sighed. That was just going make it hotter in the camper, but he couldn’t take the constant pop, pop, popping. It sounded too much like gun fire. The ashes from his cigarette, still between two nicotine-stained fingers, dropped to join the remains of its brethren on the lifeless carpet beside the bed.

In what passed for a kitchen he scooped coffee into the maker and filled it with water. He punched the start button and was made a slightly less grumpy as the sound of water begin its path through the fresh grounds.

Shouts of warning rang out from the road outside, the kids set another string of poppers alight. Ernie braced. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, in rapid succession with screams of glee coming from the now larger pack of kids gathered from the trailer park. He stared out of the tiny window over the sink at the trailer next door, smoking the cigarette and waiting for the coffee.

He wanted to get out of town, get to the country, someplace without parades, crowds and fireworks but the car was in the shop. Before the coffee was done he poured some into his least dirty cup, letting the still brewing coffee pour over the hot plate, hissing and steaming and adding to the burnt coffee smell. He shoved the pot back under the stream and sipped the life blood of his day. His nerves were already on edge from the popping and screaming outside.

When the phone rang he jumped. Who the hell is calling at five till eight? He picked up the cell phone lying on the table amidst the remains of take out wrappers, bags and empty cans of beer.

“What?” he snarled.

“Good morning to you, too, buddy,” the voice responded with a laugh.

“It’s too early, Brian.” Ernie scrubbed the cigarette out in the overflowing ashtray next to the loveseat. He put his coffee on the stained arm of the sofa and plopped his feet on the coffee table, scattering more take out wrappers. “The damn kids are outside already, firing off poppers and screaming like the Viet Cong.”

“Come on out to the house, Brother. I’ve got brats and ribs and Mary’s made potato salad. No fireworks, I promise.”

Ernie’s interest picked up. His brother Brian had the childhood home, an old farmhouse they grew up in. He swallowed some of the still too hot coffee. “Car’s in the shop.”

“I’ll come get you. I know how the 4th brings out your PTSD. Say yes.”

Ernie lit another cigarette with his Zippo. His engraved unit crest nearly rubbed away. A screamer went off. It sounded like it was right outside his trailer. He dove for the floor, coffee flew all over the loveseat and ragged carpet.

A tinny voice came from the phone, now on the floor just under the kitchen cabinet. “Ernie? Ernie? What was that? Are you OK?”

Face flushed with shame, Ernie got up and retrieved the phone. “Yeah, I’m all right. Damn kids set off a screamer.” He walked back to the loveseat and picked the cup up. He poured more coffee into it and shoved the kitchen table wrappers off onto the floor to sit down at the table.

“Are you coming out?”

“Yeah,” Ernie scrubbed his three day old beard. If he stayed here much longer those kids would be dead. “Yeah. Come and get me. I’ll be cleaned up by the time you get here.”

When Brian arrived in his new SUV, Ernie was sitting outside his camper, shaved and in clean clothes, smoking. Brian got out and gave his brother a hug.  “I don’t see any kids.”

“I chased’em off.”

“Glad you’re coming out. Mary made your favorite, lemon meringue pie.”

The two of them got into the car. “You two are too good to me. I’m a mess.”

“That’s what family is for, Ernie. You did your duty, time for us to pay it back.”

Ernie stared out of the passenger window as his younger brother backed out of the parking spot. The camper was rusted and ugly. The lawn chair he’d been sitting in was missing half of the webbing. He could still hear the pop, pop, popping of gun fire deep in his memory and if he took his hands off of his knees, they’d be shaking. He felt the way his camper looked. “Thanks, Brian. I appreciate that.”


The End

874 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday: From the Past to the Future

Crashed by Sc1r0n via www.deviantart.com

Crashed by Sc1r0n via www.deviantart.com

Ree sat at a table outside of a decrepit coffee shop on her hometown’s main street. She’d arrived home last night after a four year stint in the Air Force. She’d been thinking about having a latte at this shop for the last three years. It was on it’s last gasp but still doing better than the majority of shops on the street. Store windows were papered over, graffiti scrawled across several store fronts. She shook her head. What the hell happened?

A handful of retiree’s sat two tables away, complaining about the economy and enjoying the warm spring morning. It must be the economy, she thought as she looked up and down the street and finished her coffee. A light traffic flowed along the two way street, but it was headed through, going to the strip malls at the edge of town.

Standing, she looked around for a trash can to throw her empty cup in when she heard the crash behind her. Spinning, she saw a car coming out of the small side street two doors down, had smashed into the right front fender of a blue minivan headed north on Main Street. She dropped the forgotten cup on the table and ran to the van.

The soccer mom was pushing the airbag out of her face.

“You, OK,” Ree asked through the open window?

“Uh, yeah. Just a little shaken.”

Ree ran over to the car, a rusty four door that she was surprised passed its last inspection. She could see one of the oldster’s on his phone. The rest were standing up, taking pictures. “Hey,” she called as she reached the window. “You hurt?” She leaned down to see inside.

“I don’t think so,” the male voice said. Ree couldn’t see his face, he had his head planted on the steering wheel. The car was so old there was no airbag. He brushed his head and his hand came away covered in blood. “I think I cut my forehead.”

She ran over to the tables and grabbed a wad of paper napkins then raced back to the car. One of the old women called out. “We called 911, the ambulance is on its way.” Ree waved acknowledgement.

At the car, the guy was sitting up. Ree shoved half of the napkins into the guy’s hand. “Here, put this over the cut.”

“Shit, the brakes failed. I couldn’t get the car to stop at the corner.”

Ree peered into the car. The voice seemed familiar. “Stan?”

The guy dabbed at his forehead, staring at her from around the napkins. “Ree? Crap, when did you get back?”

Ree stood up. She could hear the ambulance sirens coming. All of the old people had gone over to the minivan to talk to the woman driver who was standing on the street. One old guy was directing traffic. “You’ve made a mess here, Stan.”

He leaned his head back on the headrest. “That’s me.” He opened one eye to look at her. “You’re lookin’ good.”

“Not the time, Stan.” Ree went to school with Stan. They graduated high school together, dating on and off the whole time. She sighed. Ree knew his life was going nowhere and she didn’t want to be trapped in this little town for the rest of her life. She joined the Air Force right after graduation. “Are you all right?”

“Just this cut, and a headache,” he said. He opened the car door with a tremendous squeal, and got out of the car. “Glad to see ya.”

Ree shook her head. They didn’t part on good terms. She was ambitious and wanted to travel. He wanted to smoke weed and do the minimum to get by. They had a fight and he backed out of her driveway in a huff. Ree’s dog was walking behind the car at the time. Even now her stomach turned at the memory of the car slamming into the Labrador mix dog.

“I’m sorry, Ree,” Stan said as he watched her face.

“That’s more than you said after you ran over my dog,” she said, her voice tight with unshed tears.

He reached out to touch her arm.

She jerked it away. “You said you didn’t even like dogs.”


She turned and walked back to the coffee shop where she’d left her backpack. It was time to leave this town for good.

The End

723 Words

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Living with the Road

Georgia AT Hike0006

Eddie sat in the molded orange plastic chair. He pulled out his netbook and logged into the Laundromat’s WiFi. He only came into Bland every 7 or 8 days. This was his chance to check email for messages from his mom and dad and the few people he still kept in touch with.

Bland, Virginia, wasn’t much, a wide spot at the intersection of I71 and State Highway 52. The post office, small grocery, Laundromat and tiny hiker store supported the hikers going to the Appalachian Trail through the local Blue Ridge Mountains.

The email from his mother was upbeat. Everyone and everything was fine. Did he want anything sent?

The only other email was from Vickie. He remembered hiking with her along the Appalachian Trail the year he left the Army. Three months after his discharge, the idea of walking 2300 miles through the quiet of the woods sounded like the thing to do. He spent the last of his saved pay on backpacking gear and headed for the southern terminus of the trail, Dahlonega, Georgia.

It was tougher than boot camp and Afghanistan combined, minus the shooting. He caught up to Vickie, trail name, Mountain Mama, in North Carolina. She didn’t talk much and was easy to talk to. He camped in his own tent. His nightmares didn’t allow him in the close confines of the shelters found along the trail.

Four months later, in Millinocket, Maine, they traded emails. She went back to her family’s farm in Vermont. He went back to his parents. That last month at home with his parents was awful. He couldn’t sleep, nightmares about Afghanistan kept him a nervous wreck. They wanted him to see a shrink, take drugs. Eddie couldn’t do it. The first trip to the VA shrink was his last. The wrecks wandering the halls of the hospital were more than he could take. He told them he had to get away for longer.

Now he camped along the trail, moving from shelter to shelter every few days to keep the Trail Runners happy. They didn’t want people setting up permanent home in any shelter. It was fine by him. He could talk to the day hikers about his through hike. He could talk to through hikers about what they’d find up ahead. He could sit in the quiet of the woods and listen to the birds and watch the deer pass by. It was enough. Until now.

Vickie was going to the hiker festival, Trail Days, in Damascus, Virginia. Did he want to meet there? He looked at the date on the computer. The festival was two days away. No way he could hike halfway down Virginia in two days. He wanted to see her again. He hadn’t had a nightmare in three months. Without thinking he hit reply and typed, “Would love to meet up. Same campground. See you there,” and hit send. He wondered afterward what he was thinking. He hadn’t had a car since he started camping here a year ago. He finished his laundry and hitched a ride back up highway 52 to the trailhead. It took four hours to hike to his tent. He stuffed it all in his pack and headed back down the mountain. It was 6pm when he got back to the highway and stuck out his thumb.

A guy heading south picked him up. “I’m going to Broadford, you goin’ that far?” he asked the driver.

“Sure. Hop in.” The driver saw a thin, dirty, long-haired, bearded guy as they headed down the highway. “Been living rough for awhile?”

Eddie nodded. “Been backpacking. There’s a hiker festival in Damascus I’m going to.”

The driver nodded. “Big adventure. I always wanted to do something like that, but, you know. Wife, kids, job. There’s never any time.”

Eddie nodded. He heard that a lot from the weekend hikers. The guy let him off at a small truck stop. “Good luck, getting to Damascus.”

Luckily a trucker was headed down 91, the Saltville Highway. He looked Eddie over before he decided. “You ain’t no junkie are ya?”

“No, sir. Hiker, headed to Damascus.”

“I can drop you at Glade Spring.”

“I’ll take it.”

They left the truck stop at 10pm. The trucker turned on his Sirius radio and they listened to classic country until he reached Glade Spring. It was late when the trucker pulled into a gas station there. “Stay out of trouble, son.” He advised.

“Yes, sir.” Eddie dragged his pack down. “Thank you for the ride.”

It was too late to hitch. There was hardly any traffic on the road. He found a patch of woods and set up a camp. The next morning he was on highway 609, headed for Abingdon. He slid his pack on his back and started walking. It was mid-morning before he caught a break. “Where ya heading?” the young guy asked. Eddie hesitated. The car reeked of pot. “Abingdon.”

“Yeah, I’m going there. Get in.”

He decided the short ride was worth the risk and tossed his pack in the back seat. They no more than started when the guy offered Eddie a joint.

“Thanks, man, but, I’m allergic.”

The driver stared. “No shit, man. That sucks.” He lit up anyway.

Eddie rolled the window down a little, letting some of the warm May air into the car. The driver cranked the radio up on some headbanger station. By the time they got to Abingdon, Eddie had a headache. “Thanks man,” he told the driver when he left the car.

“No problem.”

In Abingdon, Eddie caught the hiker shuttle to Damascus. They dropped him at the huge campground southeast of town where most of the hikers stayed. He hurried to his old spot. Vickie recognized him immediately. “War Dog!” she yelled and ran right to him. She gave him a bear hug then looked him over. “You’re not eating enough. Come on over, I’ve got stew.”

Eddie felt like he’d come home.

The End

999 Words

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