AW Flash Fiction–“What I dug up…”

Flash fiction = 90 minutes from the reveal of the theme word or words to posting of edited product on the AW website.

I already see a few grammatical mistakes and some miscalculations in my dates and math, but whatev’…

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At age sixty, my mother talked my father into painting their home three different shades of purple. She felt that at her age, she’d earned the right to behave a bit eccentrically and he’d agreed. Plus he was color blind and couldn’t have cared less. The neighbors quickly dubbed it the Peacock house and the name stuck since it was on a corner and an easily recognizable landmark. It was probably the only purple house in New Egypt, New Jersey.

When my mother passed away, a decade after my father, I inherited the house at 25 Bright Road. My sister and I had grown up in that sleepy little corner of rural New Jersey, so I was very familiar with both the home and the town. My husband, Joel, grew up in the area too. We met at the feeder high school we both went to in Allentown, New Jersey. Given that New Egypt was a short commute from both of our jobs and that our children were both in college, we decided to move into my childhood home. My younger sister thought we were crazy but after she’d swept through and snatched up a few “heirlooms” she’d always wanted, she gave us her blessing.

“Should we repaint the house?” Joel asked after we’d unpacked the last box.

“That’s a tough one,” I said, resting my weary legs on our modern sofa that felt strangely out of place. “This house has been purple for nearly two decades and is somewhat of a landmark.”

“Yeah, but it’s purple, Dana,” he said screwing his face into that look that I understood very well after almost twenty-five years of marriage. If looks could speak, his would have said, “Purple houses are for chicks, old unmarried ones at that.”

I said, “I’d rather spend the money redoing the yard, maybe put a pool in the back.” Plus I secretly kind of liked the purple color but I didn’t want to push that angle if I didn’t have to.

“The yard does need some work, that’s for sure. And we should probably put in new appliances,” he said, rubbing his chin. He did all the cooking so I wasn’t going to argue on that point.

My husband, Joel, was still a handsome devil even at fifty. I remembered doing a lot of daydreaming about him in my old bedroom on the second floor. I wrote all kinds of gushy entries in my journal that I had to hide from my nosy sister. Most were typical teenaged girl stuff–“Mrs. Dana Sabinowitz, Mrs. Joel Sabinowitz, Dana and Joel, Joel and Dana.”

“Okay,” I said as I rose from the sofa, “so we won’t worry about the paint for a while then.”

I walked through the kitchen and assessed the ancient appliances, mentally calculating the cost then glanced out the back window into the yard. Mom and Dad had a three-acre lot. There used to be a huge rye field behind their land when I was a kid and if it rained a lot and then cooled off enough for things to freeze, my sister and I had our own private ice-skating rink. But that rye field was gone now and a housing development had taken its place.

Joel walked in behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist, his chin dropped down on my shoulder. He looked out the window with me, both of us assessing the yard. “A pool would be great,” he sighed.

A week later, the pool guys showed up with their excavation equipment and began to dig a hole big enough for a rectangular pool twenty feet by forty feet. I could hardly wait to have my own pool to enjoy during the hot and humid Jersey summers.

“Hey, Dana!” yelled Joel. “Come here a second.”

“What’s up!” I yelled back. “I’m kind of in the middle of something.” I had blown the dust off of my sewing machine and was making all new curtains for the house. I needed it to be my home, not my mother’s home and it was the little things like curtains that made a huge difference.

“You need to come see what I dug up,” came his voice, a little closer now.

I looked over my shoulder and saw him walk into my sewing room, his feet filthy.

“Joel, your feet!”

“Oh, sorry,” he said as he kicked off his shoes and laid them on my patterns.

I sighed at his reckless oblivion to my sewing gear but gave him my attention. “What did you dig up? I hope you didn’t find the bones of some of our childhood pets.” I shuddered as I briefly remembered Nicky and Sam, our dog and cat, that we’d buried near the edge of the lot.

“No, it’s some kind of tin box that has your name etched on the outside. Look.” He produced a very dirty and rusty tin box that still bore the faint traces of Starsky and Hutch on the cover. Oh how I’d been in love with Hutch back then.

“Let me see,” I said, taking the box from him. “Have you opened it?”

“Nah, it says ‘private’ on the outside so I figured I had better honor your wishes or there would be hell to pay.” He grinned broadly at me, that same killer smile that slayed me when I first met him at age fifteen.

I took the box from him and tried to open it but it wouldn’t budge, probably because of all the rust.

“Here, let me go get some tools to see if I can pry it open for you,” Joel said as he trotted off in his socked feet.

While he was gone, I racked my brain for what I had put in this box, why and when I had buried it. I barely remembered the box so I thought that I probably bought it specifically for burying. For a brief second I remembered a gerbil my sister and I had owned for a mere three months before it died. I shook my head as I remembered that we’d buried it in a velvet bag I had made out of fabric scraps.

Joel ran in with a few tools and within five minutes had broken off enough of the rust sealing the edges to loosen the lid. He handed it to me to do the final unveiling.

As I lifted the lid, I saw a red journal inside. The cover bore a few traces of mold and dirt but otherwise appeared to be in fairly good shape.

“Looks like some sort of journal,” Joel said as he looked over my shoulder.

I lifted it out and all the hours I’d spent pouring my heart out onto the pages of this journal came rushing back in a torrent. I knew the types of things I’d written but did I dare show them to Joel?

“Yeah, it’s my journal from when I was sixteen and seventeen. I can tell from the dates inside the cover.” I flipped to the entry I made on my sixteenth birthday, November 18, 1976. There it was. The reason for all my cloak and dagger secrecy.

I handed the journal to Joel, opened to the entry that I didn’t even need to read to remember what it said.

Joel took it and read aloud, “Dear Diary, I will marry Joel Sabinowitz. I know this in my heart. One day I will be Mrs. Dana Sabinowitz. I even know the date. Don’t ask me how I know, but I do. I love him. I will always love him. And one day he’ll love me. And on January 9, 1984, I predict that I will become Mrs. Joel Sabinowitz.”

I smiled at the incredulous look on his face.

“But how…” He continued to gape at me.

See, I had married Joel Sabinowitz on January ninth of 1984. Don’t ask me how I’d correctly predicted the actual date down to the year but somehow I had.

I reached out to take back the journal from him. I didn’t want him to read any more of my entries because if he had he’d have seen similar predictions and swoony entries declaring my love for David Moore, Grant Swerdel and Larry Johnson. And what he didn’t know couldn’t hurt him.

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3 thoughts on “AW Flash Fiction–“What I dug up…”

  1. I just left a link to this in a writer friend’s blog. After re-reading this a year and a half later, I can’t help but squirm at many of the writing mistakes I’ve now learned not to make.

    I’m not going to edit it, though. It never purported to be anything other than a first draft crafted in a speed writing exercise. The story still moves me because many of its elements are lifted from real life and it’s a charming reminder (to me anyway) of where I came from and that I actually have made some progress in the craft of writing. Cheers to any who read this and thanks for your indulgence.

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