I wrote this story for The Write Tribe contest incorporating the following seven words in random order (they’ll be in bold): postcard, coin, tidy, wild, help, calendar, responsibility.
It is a bit of a departure for me because it is not genre fiction: it is “mainstream” fiction. Maybe I should have made him a cyborg. . . Anyway, it’s the story that came to mind. It is 493 words, well short of the stated 700 word limit. Which is also a departure for me. :)
Greg stood at the end of the short driveway, gazing at the mobile home in the early morning light. A wan, yellow glow in one window told him that someone was awake. Probably getting ready for work.
He checked the postcard again. Maybe he had the wrong address? No. This was definitely it. The address was drawn on the card in meticulous, cursive letters, as though the writer were an expert in calligraphy.
The place, by contrast, was a mess. Grass grew two feet tall in places. A wild profusion of weeds choked what few flowers and shrubs there were. The mailbox canted at a jaunty angle, its post half-consumed by termites and borer bees. He eyed the decrepit-looking Volkswagon van parked in front of him. It was probably twice as old as he was.
He pulled a coin out of his pocket. A quarter. He gripped it between his thumb and index finger so tightly, he imagined he could feel George Washington’s sharp nose digging into the pad of his thumb. It didn’t help still the quaver in his hand.
One little toss of a coin. Then it wouldn’t be on him. Heads or tails. Stay or go. Fate would decide. Very tidy, he thought. Leave the decision to random chance. Shirk yet another responsibility.
A trickle of sweat beaded at the nape of his neck and crawled down his back, agonizingly slow. He shifted his weight to his other foot. What was there to gain, here? He should just go. He had no business coming here. What had he even been thinking? Yes. He would go. He turned to walk away, and then stopped.
You are going . . . up to that door to knock like an adult.
He clenched his jaw. Put the quarter back in his pocket. Took several deep breaths.
He’d had today circled on his calendar for months. His true twenty-first birthday, which he’d found out from the sweat-stained postcard clutched in his hand. They — whoever answered the door — were his birth family. He’d been looking for them for months. He wouldn’t let a few weeds and some tall grass destroy his chance to learn his origins.
He squared his shoulders and purposefully strode up to the door, and, before he could talk himself out of it, knocked.
There was a long silence. Then, the knob turned and the door crept open. He found himself looking down into the kindly eyes of a grey-haired woman in a wheelchair. She wheeled herself forward, half in and half out of the threshold. In the growing sunlight, her eyes were bright green.
Like his own.
“Gregory?” she asked, her voice cracking. “Is that . . . Is it really you?”
All his anxiety fled, leaving him weak in its wake. He sank to his knees in front of the wheelchair and grabbed the woman’s hands in his own, crumpling the postcard.
“Yes,” he said, smiling. “It’s me. I’ve come home.”