Sunday, January 27, 2019

Outside the Window -- flash fiction

     She felt it more than heard it.
     She'd been tired, so tired she'd gone to bed leaving Carl in front of the TV.
     She didn't open her eyes. She heard only silence and drifted off.
     There it was again. A distant rumble, like a bowling ball running down the lane. She and Carl bowled a lot when the kids were small. The Bowlarama had thirty lanes, a bar and grill, and childcare. She turned over and went back to sleep.
     A different sound -- like a door shutting. Then rushing air. She kept her eyes shut. Maybe it was the heating unit. Or the wind. She felt Carl's side of the bed. Empty. He must still be in front of the TV. What time was it? Maybe she could go back to sleep.
     She opened her eyes.
     The room was dark. Totally dark. She reached for her glasses. The night light must be out. Maybe the battery. No, it didn't have a battery. It plugged into the wall. Did those bulbs ever burn out? She couldn't remember how long they'd had it. She touched the base of her reading lamp. Nothing happened.
     The power was out. Where was her phone? She'd use it for light. Yes, of course -- on the charger in the kitchen.
     She stepped into one of her house slippers, but she couldn't find the other one. Just another good reason to be more intentional about putting things away. Her keys, the remote control, the house phone.
     Carl was much better at that than she. He hung his coat in the hall closet as soon as he came in. He always recradled the house phone no matter where he'd been using it. Each of his tools hung in its place on the south wall of the garage.
     The living room was dark.


     No Carl. No TV, either. Of course not. The power was out.
     Maybe a breaker had kicked off. They did that sometimes, like when Carl was in the garage welding. Many years ago her father had shown her how to push the breaker switch all the way off, then on again. She couldn't think if the breaker box was in the garage or outside somewhere.
     Lightning flashed through the closed blinds, lighting the room in eerie strips. Too little light for too short a time. On then off like a strobe. Silence for a three-count, then thunder.
     First the wind. A gust front. She could feel it against the house. Then the rain started. From the popping sound against the chimney cap, they must be big drops. Or maybe hail.


     Maybe he'd gone into the garage to do whatever it was needed doing to get the power back on.
     She opened the blinds and looked out. The whole neighborhood was dark. So dark she couldn't see across the street. It wasn't just her house.
     Again, a flash of lightning. Wind driven rain lashed the window. Their beautiful bay window -- the window that sold them on this house.
     In that moment, she saw someone coming toward the house. Through her roses. Carl knew better than that. Her Mister Lincoln had been there for years. Her mother gave her the cutting. And the Tropicana, the most beautiful orange rose. Not the aggressive orange of a hunter's vest. More like mango sherbet. Carl said it didn't look right, next to the Mister Lincoln's deep red.
     Dark again, leaving only the bright blindness of eyes trying to adjust.
     Thunder and a scream. Amidst the raging wind and rain, something smashed through the window. Sounds of shattering glass and clashing Venetian blinds filled the blackness. Her chest constricted. She couldn't breathe. She pressed herself against the wall.
     Another flash lit the room. Harsh white light exposed a concrete bowl sitting on her living room floor -- the bowl and broken glass. Her birdbath. Carl told her it was too near the window, but farther away and it would have been on the other side of the roses. Where was he?
     Moaning wind battered at the front door. The moans sounded almost human. The moans became shouts, calling her name beseeching her to "please open the damn door."


     Lightning flashed as she opened the door. Carl stood there, silhouetted against the glare. Thunder roared over their heads, as though to shake the world. She pulled him inside.

     Too exhausted to be afraid any longer, they huddled in the hallway until the storm passed.

     Dawn came right behind the storm. In that quiet, first light, she examined the damage. Their living room was in shambles. Rain soaked the glass strewn carpet and most of the furniture. Blood streaked Carl's face.

     "Sorry 'bout the roses." He said. "And the birdbath. I fell against it."

     She gently plucked a deep red petal from above his left eye and a mango sherbet petal from his left cheek. Carl had been wrong. His face was beautiful. Even with the Mister Lincoln rose's deep red so near the Tropicana's orange.