Today's "flash" fiction got a bit out of hand. It topped out at just under a thousand words instead of the usual 500, but it worked so well, I didn't have the heart to cut nearly half of it. I hope you enjoy it all the same.
This week's is also a first. It's actually general fiction, which I've never managed to write without hating before.
Most vivid amongst the memories of his home town were the lazy summer days he and his friends spent trekking through and camping in the woods back behind his grandparent’s house. It was one of those small towns you hear stories about, where everyone knew everyone else, and nothing ever happened. Thomas had found it dull as a teenager, but it had been just about perfect when he was a boy.
He’d found a college far enough away to necessitate a move to the city, and he’d never looked back. His parents had moved not long after, and his grandfather visited them during the holidays. So he’d never had a reason to return.
Then he received a call three days ago telling him his grandpa passed away in his sleep.
Thomas boarded the train expecting to find the little town just as he’d left it, frozen in time. Yet, when he walked out of the train station, he almost didn’t recognize it. Most of the old shops in downtown were gone, replaced by the same chain stores you see everywhere. The ones that remained stood out like old, colorful but worn, shoe boxes mixed in with a line of parcel post. Cars buzzed down the widened streets, and the air reeked of exhaust and garbage cans in need of emptying.
He frowned. A melancholy he couldn’t name tugged at his heart as he pulled up directions to the hotel he’d booked. “At least there’s a decent hotel in town now,” he mumbled to himself as he turned and started down the sidewalk.
The next day, he took an uber out to the old church for his grandfather’s funeral. He watched the houses slide by along the way. Like the shops downtown, most of them were new. Subdivisions sat where there used to be fields. A few of the old houses had been fixed up. Some were replaced by bigger, newer homes, and a few looked ready to collapse.
It was almost a relief to see a few fields and pastures still scattered here and there.
The funeral was simple. Thomas’ grandfather was laid to rest next to his wife, and the mourners broke up to go to the wake. Thomas didn’t feel the need, so he called for an uber to take him back to the hotel.
A hand landed on Thomas’ shoulder and squeezed, prompting him to look up from his screen.
“The reading of Grandpa’s will is in the morning,” said his dad.
“You’re name’s on the list of people who should be there.”
Thomas nodded and made a note to change his train home. He’d go, but he didn’t expect his name would be mentioned. He and Grandpa George didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye on much, and being the old fashioned guy he was, Thomas figured he’d left everything to Mom.
Yet, the next morning the reader called out, “To my grandson, Thomas, I leave the back sixty he loved so much as a boy.”
Eyes wide, Thomas fell back against his chair, wondering why Grandpa George would do such a thing. They’d disagreed over so much in the past decade, mostly over the fact Grandpa George refused to give up tending the farm. Thomas had repeatedly encouraged him to at least sell the woodland he’d never bothered to clear and use the money to set himself up someplace comfortable. His grandfather had always refused.
Thomas expected the farm to be sold lock, stock, and barrel. The rest of the family hadn’t lived near in years, and his parents had no interest in farming. He certainly didn’t, and there was no one else.
Why would Grandpa George leave sixty acres to him specifically? Was it really just because he liked to play back there as a boy?
Afterwards, he received the deed to the land, still not sure if he should believe what was happening or not. He looked over the paper and found it real and exactly what he’d been told.
Rolling the scrap of paper back up, he followed his parents out of the office and climbed into the back of their car. He watched the town, go by as they drove him to the hotel.
“What are you going to do with the farm?” he asked his mom.
She looked back at him with a sad smile. “Your cousin Amelia and her husband have been talking about wanting to start farming,” she said. “We thought we might talk to them about a rent-to-own deal.”
Thomas smiled, inexplicably happy to know the farm wouldn’t become another subdivision, at least for a while yet.
“What about you?” Mom asked. “What’ll you do with the back sixty?”
“He’s been trying to get Grandpa George to sell it for years, Pamela,” Dad said. “What do you think he’ll do with it?”
An overwhelming sense of wrongness hit Thomas, and he frowned. Did he want to sell it? No, not really.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I told Grandpa to because I wanted him closer to family, so he’d be taken care of when his health started getting bad. But it’s such a nice bit of forest…”
“Well, it was,” Mom agreed. “It’s gotten grown up now. Who knows what’s back there?”
“Still, Grandpa was right. I loved it back there.” Thomas grinned and leaned forward, propping his hand on his chin. “It’s such a great place for hiking and camping and exploring. It’d be a shame to see it bulldozed.”
“You make it sound like some kind of park,” his mother laughed.
“Maybe it should be,” Thomas mused.
Aside from today's anomaly, each story in this series is 500 words or less and is prompted by a first line taken either from a random first line generator like this one or reader suggestions like "Don't Forget Me." I much prefer working from reader suggestions over generators, but to do that, I need to hear from you.
If you have a prompt you'd like to see done, comment below, send it to my Tumblr asks, Tweet it at me, or leave a comment on any of the audio stories from this series. I'll screen shot it, write it, and post it for you.
A. B. England is a small business owner, mom of two, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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