I’m writing a series of novels: the Seeking Scylla series. Some characters dance on the edges of the narratives. Some never make it in. In Beyond Scylla blogs, I share stories and vignettes about these characters.
Monday Morning Blue Chip
Jack shuffles to his truck, balancing himself on his swollen ankles. Two swollen ankles this morning.
His phone will ring or buzz any second now. Debbie never says so, but Jack knows his older sister is checking on him. Debbie is the mother-hen of his sisters, annoying and nosy but at least she calls. Sue, his baby sister, doesn’t give a damn about anyone but herself and her book business.
I can take a another blue chip today.
Jack’s not sure he will. He has one for the first six months. He hopes this is the last rinse, repeat. It would be fourteen months next week if he hadn’t fallen.
He and his high-school friend Buddy were almost done baling hay for the day. Jack doesn’t have farming in his family but to everyone’s surprise he is handy like his father. He picked up farm skills quickly and enjoys helping Buddy on the farm.
Jack was baling the last stretch of the south field when he heard the whine in the baler.
The twine! It’s always the damned net wrap.
He stopped the tractor to jump off and sort the wrap, except his boot caught on the tractor, and the jump became a fall. First the flip, then the head bang against the bottom step—next hanging by his boot—the twist of the ankle, and finally the ground.
Buddy was on the north side of the farm loading round bales onto his rusty flat-bed trailer. Jack lay there staring into the browning grasses for… 100 years? Felt like 100 years before he worked up the nerve to touch his head.
Blood, but not much. The gash was small.
Then his ankle.
Pins! Dull electric pins pierced his left ankle, rippling pain up his leg.
I can’t walk.
Jack squeezed his moist eyes, checked his pockets. No phone. Probably on the tractor. Jack turned and stared up the rugged metal path to the tractor seat.
Can I work the clutch and brakes with my right foot? Should I wait for Buddy?
Jack was still sorting out plans, one hand on the bottom step, when Buddy found him an hour after the fall.
Longnecks and wagons
Two days later Buddy showed up at Jack’s house with a six pack of longnecks. Only Debbie, maybe Sue, knew Jack had been going to meetings for seven months.
I should have told Buddy.
Jack sucked the longneck dry.
“Dang! You must be thirsty,” Buddy smiled as he passed Jack another.
Debbie found Jack two weeks later when she popped in to see why he wasn’t answering her calls. She didn’t have to ask. One look and she knew how hard he had fallen.
Monday Morning Meeting
Today, Jack’s right ankle is swollen too, probably because he favors it since the fall.
Jack’s phone buzzes.
Jack texts Debbie back.
Call U later. Meeting.
Monday morning meeting. The road to it is still hell, littered with temptations, calls from uninformed friends, beer coolers at the service stations.
But It’s Monday, and I made it.
Jack cranks up his truck, his ankle tender above the brake. He looks forward to sitting with Mary, four rows deep on the outer aisle.
I’ll take the chip, he decides.
When he returns to his seat, Mary will squeeze his hand, and making it to the next Monday will be one squeeze easier.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022
I’m also rooting for Jack. It’s a tough road, but he seems determined.
You packed a lot into this short story, and it was well done. The double meaning of fallen in this story. I did feel sympathetic for Jack. It’s wonderful that he has people who care for him because a person in that situation can be hard and wearing to care for. Alana ramblinwitham
Your stories always ‘come off the page’ for me. Very real. Very believable. I was rooting for Jack as well!
And maybe more people would succeed in their life-changing goals with someone in their corner to text or simply give their hand a squeeze!
I think about that so much… being the person there to squeeze the hand. How to protect my serenity and still offer a hand. But we all need to root for the Jack’s of the world.
It’s more difficult, in a short story, to feel invested in the choices of the protagonist, but you had me rooting for Jack from the start.
Thanks. He’s also a bit of a jerk, so making a reader feel sympathetic is another challenge. 😉