June 28, 2023

A month ago we were asked to write a short story about a perfect Sunday afternoon following these directions:

    • 1200 to 1500 words
    • Must have a protagonist and an antagonist
    • Must have an identifiable conflict
    • Describe the setting (time and place)
    • Incorporate all senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight)
    • Have a surprise ending
    • TOPIC: Your (or you protagonist’s or antagonist’s) idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon.
      • Can be any genre
        • Drama
        • Romance
        • Science fiction
        • Horror
        • Poetry
        • Anything else
      • Can be any POV
        • Third person limited (narrator knows only one character’s thoughts)
        • Third person omniscient (narrator knows all characters’ thoughts)
        • Second person (protagonist or another character becomes “you”)
        • First person (Protagonist or another character becomes “I”) 

To be honest, I’m unsure where my characters came from. Maybe from an old movie.  All I know is they were suddenly there and pretty much doing their own thing! I hope you enjoy reading this dramatic short story.

A Day of Extremes

It was a gorgeous morning in May as we returned home after church on Sunday. I dug out my keys as Frank parked in our driveway. I leaned over to kiss his cheek and whispered in his ear. “I know we promised the boys and I hate to break my promise, but I must check on Dad.”

My husband grimaced, sighed, then nodded. We would probably argue about this when I got back. Junior scowled at me as I hugged him. Mike held onto my waist. “Please don’t go Mom. You promised.”

I tousled his sandy hair. “I know kiddo, but I’ve got to see if your grandpa is okay.” I turned toward my beater so he wouldn’t see my tears. I had always told them promises should never be broken.

Frank waited outside while I attempted to get my heap started. At last, the car chugged and emitted a cloud of blue vapor. He waved as I slowly backed down the driveway.

Dreading what I might find and silently berating my dad, I drove six blocks to his home. I parked at the curb so I could check his mailbox. It was full. It looked like he hadn’t been out to get the mail all week.

Stale, smoky air greeted me as I stepped inside the unlocked front door. I called, “Dad are you okay? You really shouldn’t leave this unlocked. Never know who might wander in.”

His house was dark, but his TV cast a dim light from the living room. Gunshots from a western was the only sound.

Hand on the wall, I inched my way through the foyer then peered around the archway. Dad was reclined in his chair and emitted a snort. After entering the room, I opened the drapes and windows then took stock of his mess. Beer bottles and an overflowing ashtray littered the end table nearest him.

In the next room, I found dirty dishes filled the kitchen sink. Every burner held a pot with a congealed mass of something now inedible. Empty pork-and-bean cans covered the surface of his entire kitchen counter. After flipping on the stove’s fan hoping to remove some of the putrid stink, I gagged several times as I cleaned up. I searched the pantry for large trash bags then finished making the kitchen spotless like Mom had always kept it.

Dad woke as I tossed his empties into a sack. “What are you doing here? I didn’t invite you to come.”

He had always been cantankerous but, since Mom’s death eight weeks ago, he had become much worse.

“You weren’t at church again this morning. I came to make sure you were all right.”

He lit a cigarette and coughed. “No need to attend that bullshit. There is no God.”

“Reverend Murphy asked about you.”

He coughed and spluttered. “That sumbitch should mind his own business. He did nothing good for Mary.”

I held back a sigh. “You know he gave Mom hope.”

He hacked a gob of something yellowish green into his hankie. “Fat lot of good it did her!”

“Dad, you cannot go on like this. A constant diet of pork and beans isn’t healthy.”

He raised a fist. “Don’t need you nosing around. You better get out of here before I’m tempted to smack you.”

Shaking my head, I said, “I’ll go as soon as I finish cleaning this mess and taking out your trash.”

Dad’s body visibly shook with anger. “I’m quite capable of doing it.” He spluttered. “I’m not a baby who needs mollycoddling.” The chair’s footrest slammed down as he stood up. “Get out now!”

Sobbing, I grabbed my purse then ran out to my car. Through my tears, I fumbled to find my cell.

My oldest brother answered on the third ring. “What’s up?”

“I’m worried about Dad.”


I choked back another sob. “I think he needs counseling.”

Bob emitted an exasperated sigh. “What do you want from me?”

“You should come back and see him.”

“No way.”

“Bobby, please…”

Silence on the now dead line. I immediately wished I were using the home phone so I could slam the receiver onto its cradle. This would have been childish, but oh so satisfying. Instead, I controlled my breathing as I counted to ten, then searched my purse for a clean tissue to wipe my eyes.

I scrolled through my contacts and called Sam. When he didn’t answer, I left a voicemail asking him to phone even though I doubted he would do so. He had become self-centered after moving to LA. And now he was even more like Dad than Bob was. Until Mom’s funeral, we hadn’t spoken in almost a decade.

Jeff’s husband answered my next call. “Hello Ronnie. He’s out back with the mutts. Hang on a sec.”

A few moments of muffled sounds and yips, then I overheard my youngest brother say, “Charlie, please keep them out here while I talk to her.”

I heard the patio door click shut as he came inside. “What’s wrong sis?”

I explained my concerns to him.

He said, “I still need to turn in final grades. I can’t get away until next weekend, but…yes, I’ll come. I’ll call you later with trip details, and we’ll chat more then.”

“Thank you for understanding. Love you.”

I stashed the cell in my purse, then turned the ignition key. Click, click, click. The engine didn’t turn over. I slammed my hand on the steering wheel then tried again. I allowed my tears to stream down my cheeks as I searched for my phone.

I hiccupped as he answered. “Frank, Nellie won’t start. No, she isn’t flooded. It’s probably the alternator. Please come get me. No, don’t bother Gordon today. It can wait until tomorrow.”

After glimpsing myself in the visor mirror, I dug out my mascara and compact. I removed the dark streaks from under my eyes with a damp tissue then reapplied makeup. I had also freshened my lipstick before he pulled his Accord next to my hatchback. After grabbing my keys, I slid into his passenger seat.

Frank put his car in gear. “I had a great idea while driving over here, so please hear me out.” He glanced at me. “I know how much you love your ‘91 Corsica, but it’s time for you to let it go.”

When I started to object, he said, “Ronnie, please listen. Instead of taking an expensive trip that our boys probably wouldn’t enjoy, I think we should get a new vehicle. Maybe an SUV. I think we should give your hatchback to Junior to fix up. It would be perfect for when he goes to college in two years.”

He parked in our driveway then turned to me. “Just think about this. Now go in and take a hot bubble bath. I’ll take care of making the food.”

As I soaked in soapy foam, Frank knocked then entered with a filled goblet. “Here. Take your time.” He sat on the tub’s edge. “By the way, I filmed the game so you can watch it later. Junior had three RBI’s and even stole second base. Guess I should get back to the ribs.”

I reached my wet hand up and stroked his cheek. “Thank you.” Taking a sip, the sharp, earthy tang of Cabernet exploded against my tongue. Sighing, I eased deeper into the water.

Dressed in comfortable cotton shorts and top, I joined Frank on our patio. He smiled as he flipped over the meat. My stomach rumbled at the delicious barbeque aroma. My boys’ shouts echoed from next door where they played catch with the neighbor kids.

I refilled my goblet then sat at our table. “What’s in the foil?”

Frank smiled. “The boys wanted your cheesy fries, so I made them peel the potatoes. The other has asparagus. I also fixed stuffed portobello mushrooms.” He raised his voice. “Junior, Mike, come set the table!”

When we finished eating, he said, “Boys, go do the dishes.” He came close and kissed me. A hint of garlic lasted on his lips. “Feeling any better?”

“Yes now. Thanks to you.” I smiled. “After I watch the video, how about going to DQ? It would be the perfect end to a pleasant afternoon.”

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