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Today's Story by R. F. Abercrombie

He said he’d be fine, he had that kitchen remodel in Wood Haven that would take two weeks at least. Then he swore and muttered something about the spread on the Giants game.

She Imagined

She imagined she heard sirens.

A baggage cart whined past Margie as she trundled through the airport, her husband, Edgar, in tow.

“I dunno why you brought so much stuff.” He heaved two suitcases onto the scales at the check-in counter.

Margie clutched her ticket in one hand and her carry-on in the other. She explained again she was going for a month and you never knew what the weather in Houston was going to do.

“A whole month,” he complained.

After she received her boarding pass, they went for breakfast in the terminal. Margie wanted to eat at a real sit-down restaurant but Edgar chose a bar with sports playing on six big-screen TVs.

They sat in a booth for two where Edgar could watch the highlights reel. Margie looked at the menu. She wanted eggs benedict – something special – but all they had were sandwiches. She ordered a BLT and orange juice.

Edgar’s eyes shifted between his smartphone and the big screen.

“You gonna be alright while I’m gone?” she asked.

“Sure,” he replied, “I’m busy.” Edgar was a laid-off carpenter. He did some odd jobs and worked for a bookie. Years ago, when the kids were little, he had built an addition half again as big as the original house. He called it the family room but it became his room where he watched his shows, played hismusic, played his games on his computer.

She thought she smelled smoke.

Margie checked the bacon on her sandwich; it was stiff and brown with doneness. Edgar plowed through his Philly steak sub, sucking at the meat stuck between his teeth.

“You’ll come out at Christmas?” she asked.

“I bought the ticket, didn’t I?” Edgar wasn’t on good terms with their daughter, Susan. She was a nurse on the children’s ward. Edgar didn’t get along with her husband, Brad, either. Susan said it was because Brad was good with the kids and was a bigger sports addict than her father even though Brad worked on oil rigs for weeks at a time.

“I’ll call every day to see how you’re doing,” she said. “In case you need something.”

He said he’d be fine, he had that kitchen remodel in Wood Haven that would take two weeks at least. Then he swore and muttered something about the spread on the Giants game. Edgar always talked under his breath. These days it was mostly how Margie was in his way and sticking her nose in his business. She carefully stuck her nose in anyway; how would she be able to watch the money otherwise?

“The little ones will be glad to see you,” she said.

“Doubtful,” he answered. Edgar called his two granddaughters the Chatty Cathys; they were talkative and took after Susan. He was fonder of Tommy, a Little League shortstop and a budding baseball statistician. Tommy worshipped Brad and Susan said Tommy thought his grandfather was “and I quote, ‘gruff and condescending’.”

“Don’t forget to bring them something,” Margie reminded. Edgar was terrible about remembering birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. He never asked what she wanted for her birthday or Christmas. Now he just gave her a gift card and dinner at her favorite restaurant — if the date didn’t coincide with a game or interfere with his work.

Did she see a flame?

A security cart’s flashing light sent a red beam flickering through the bar. Edgar pocketed his phone. “Time to go,” he said. He carried Margie’s carry-on when she asked.

At security, Margie turned to him and said, “Stay until the plane leaves.”

He frowned and rolled his eyes.

“Please,” she begged.

Edgar nodded and kissed the top of her head. “Have a good trip.”

Her flight was on time. It wasn’t until the plane was in the air that Margie began to relax. She put her head back and closed her eyes. She breathed a little sigh and smiled.

She imagined by the time he was home, his side of the house would be a pile of cinders.


R. F. Abercrombie is a free-lance copywriter making his first excursions into the world of short fiction. He grew up in Michigan and now lives near Tampa, Florida.


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