Time to chew on some fresh Flash Fiction nuggets, hope you have the appropriate sauce to wash them down.
Before we get to the story, a reminder that it’s a group effort around this here ranch, and we hope you’ll visit the other authors who comprise this collection: Paul Bennett, Robert Cely, Derek Elkins, Jamie D. Greening, Kathy Kexel, and Joe Shaw. As always, there’s no fee, we’re doing this to help you pass the time. We do ask that you buy our books/audio books to help pay the freight here. But that’s up to you! Mine are all on the right margin of the blog.
There Are Masked Men In My Driveway.
Eric Johnson was well past his expiration date. God hadn’t snapped him up in Korea, and he’d gotten out of Vietnam by the skin of his teeth. The final years of his career were spent in a motor pool just twelve kilometres from the East German border. It was known as the “Red Highway” because in the event the Russians ever came over the border, his outpost was a goner. But he’d pulled his 30 and gotten out without too many scars. A couple of things ached from time-to-time, but mostly intact.
That’s why, on Saturday morning, he wasn’t overly anxious when the seven pickup trucks pulled into his neighborhood, each one loaded with three, or four, rough looking characters. The men and women in the trucks grabbed large bags, like a duffel bag, from the back of the vehicles and dispersed in a military formation, each team approaching a house, pounding on the door (he assumed, his hearing wasn’t that good) and then going inside to pillage.
Grabbing a weapon from a shelf in the kitchen, he sat on his couch and waited for his turn. The cops were useless, these guys were fast. He’d called, but the dispatcher made some noise about the force being tied up with social distancing calls at a strip mall that had opened that morning in defiance of the mayor’s orders. He knew this was on him, but he was just too lame from the arthritis to go out and stop them. He’d wait for them to come to him. The best ambushes always worked that way.
He’d just dozed off on the couch in a ray of sunshine when the pounding came at his door. He saw one of the pickup trucks in his driveway, and there were four men wearing masks outside his door. The strains of “Sweet Home Alabama” were so loud that he could hear them over the tinnitus he’d suffered from for decades.
Saying a quick prayer, he grabbed his weapon and opened the inner door, leveling his .45 at the man who had knocked. There was little surprise seen in the eyes visible above the mask, and a certain resigned weariness seemed to pervade the man’s demeanor.
“Nice. That’s an actual government model. Carry that one in Vietnam, Mr. Johnson?”
How did this jasper know his name?
“Matter of fact, Korea.”
“Well, you won’t be needing it today. My name is Greenshaw. Robert Greenshaw. My friends here, and I, are from the Bethany Congregational Church on Old Highway 8. Our pastor sent us out to see if you needed any chores done. And we brought a bundle of fresh produce for you. Stuff’s hard to get delivered with the lock-down. But if you don’t need us, we’ll amble on out of here. All I ask is that you don’t shoot me unless I give you cause.”
Eric considered that for a moment. “What’s your pastor’s name?”
“Cely. Derek Cely.”
Johnson lowered the .45, easing the safety on – but leaving the hammer cocked. Stuffing it into his jeans pocket, he opened the door.
“You can take those masks off if you want. I haven’t got it, and I sure hated wearing a gas mask in my day.”
As a group, the men pulled the masks off, revealing big smiles.
“Thanks. We wear them because some folks are skittish about it. Especially older folks who aren’t as tough as you. This whole neighborhood is way older than most, and that’s why we came out here. Part of our missions team.”
Johnson laughed. “Don’t flatter me, it’s not worth the effort. Yes, in answer to your question, I could use some help with my spring cleaning. Stuff that needs to be hauled out. My grand kids are out of state and their visit was cancelled. Free labor that I’m not getting! Say, you guys want some coffee? I got a pie I thawed as well, so I’ll cut you a piece.”
Heads nodded. “Yessir, a cup of coffee would be nice. But let’s get the stuff hauled first. We work for our supper at the church.”
The police arrived while the men were stacking a winter’s worth of cardboard boxes and recycle at the curb. A short conversation was held, and they left to attend to other evil doers.
Eric had managed to walk to the end of the driveway to thank them again. His arthritis was a lot less awful after an hour in the sun watching the younger men work.
“Thanks, boys. I couldn’t have done it myself. But I finally have an answer to an old question with your help today.”
“What question is that, Mr. Johnson?”
“Who was that masked man? Now I know the answer is “A believer sent by God.” I’ve been pretty lonely, and didn’t even realize it. If any of you want to drop by and visit, I’d be obliged. You can even bring your wives and kids. I’ll welcome anyone from your crew.”
Greenshaw thrust out his hand. “I’d be delighted. We’ll stop by with our kids this week. I saw you have some charcoal for that grill. We’ll bring the dinner if you wouldn’t mind sharing your life story with our kids. The schools haven’t talked about your kind of service, and I want them to grow up appreciating what they’ve got.”
Eric stood just a little taller than he had the day before. “I’d be honored. See you Tuesday at six. Thanks fellows, you’ve made an old man’s day.”