Ok, so I’m well aware of what the cliffhanger is supposed to be. Who shot J.R?. How will they bring Spock back? What are these things growing on my genitalia? I always want to break the mold a little, write the story that nobody else had considered. So, here is my cliff-hanger for chuck wendig’s flash fiction challenge.
THE GREAT ESCAPE?
“It smells like shit in here, Gary.”
“Dad, SHHH! It’s Albert. You’ll embarrass him!”
“Do you think that saying something about it is going to embarrass him more than the fact that he shit the bed?”
Albert speaks up from the next bed. “I know what happened. Can’t help it. It’s not fair, God damnit! I killed more Japs than smallpox. I built roads and bridges and did my part. Now I’m just laying here in my own shit. If I’d known I would end up like this I would have followed those Japs right over the cliff that day.” He pauses for a long moment, staring at the ceiling. “Jerry, we’re just waiting here to die. We weren’t smart enough to die young.”
“Shut up, Albert, it’s just shit. It’ll wash off.”
Gary has heard it all before. His father still has his health, still remembers and talks about fishing and camping trips when Gary was a kid. He still talks about Mom and family and youth. The problem is he can’t remember what he did an hour ago. He burned the kitchen off the house a few months earlier with a pot of beans. He would leave the car running when he came home. Gary had been convinced that a nursing home was for Dad’s Own Good.
Now, sitting in the stark cinderblock room, smelling the evacuated bowels of Dad’s roommate, Gary second guessed that decision. His wife wouldn’t let him bring Dad home. They had fought about it enough and frankly, the marriage was hanging on by a thread anyway. He was determined to make his marriage work. Dad’s house had been declared a total loss and insurance had paid for it.
There was nowhere for Dad to go. “Dad, do you want to be here?” He knows what the answer will be.
“Do I want to be here? Take a deep breath. Do you think I like the fresh air in here? Look around. Is this scenery appealing to you? Do you think it’s appealing to me? Of course I don’t want to be here. I love you Gary but this place is hell. I live to be outside. I want my front porch back.”
“The house was dozed Dad, I told you that.”
Jerry looks down at his lap. His son wondered if he had forgotten about the house. “Gary, the insurance money. Where is it?”
“It’s in your bank account, Dad.”
“Paying for me to be here?”
The next morning Jerry changes into his regular clothes. He has blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a button up shirt in his drawer. He used the room phone to call a cab.
“Damn, you look like a million bucks, Jerry! You got a date?”
“You could say that. Albert, I’m not coming back.”
“Seriously? That’s fucking awesome! Where ya going?”
“Well, to the bank first. But I don’t know after that. There’s a big world out there. Just do me a favor. Don’t let on. Don’t let anyone know. You don’t know anything about this, do you hear me?”
“I wouldn’t do anything to hurt your chances. Go to a titty bar for me, will ya?”
“Sure thing, Albert.”
Jerry steps out into the hallway for what he hopes will be the last time. The front door is to his left, past the front desk. He turns right. The cab should be waiting by the side door by now. The women at the nurse’s station shouldn’t recognize him in that wing. He just has to walk upright, quickly, and act like he has every right to walk out.
The hallway smells like everything else in this place. Cleaning solution, poop, urine, and the eggs from the kitchen. As he passes each room, the dominance of each smell changes. Somebody shit the bed in that room. They just cleaned this one. Milly just got served her breakfast.
He turns the final corner. “At last,” he says quietly. He straightens up. He quickens his step. With one final sigh, he strolls over to the front desk.
“Excuse me, I was visiting Jerry Murphy again. The last time I was here I couldn’t get the code in the door right. I have bad eyes, that’s why I don’t drive. That’s my cab out there.” He points out the glass doors to the yellow sedan parked at the curb. “Can you buzz me out?”
“Of course, honey. Have a nice day!”
It’s going to work! He strides across the West Side waiting room to big glass doors. A thunderous click and buzz indicates that they are unlocked. Freedom is right through those doors…
“HOLD IT!” comes a man’s voice from behind him. As the fear of being caught grips his heart, a hand grasps his shoulder.