Short Fiction ~ Bob Thurber
Third Prize, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 8
Straight out of high school Mick’s uncle landed him and me second-shift jobs at a textile factory where everybody wore rubber headphones to muffle out the noise. Everybody except the old timers, who were already deaf. I can’t even tell you what the company manufactured, but they certainly made a lot of it. From three until midnight Mick’s uncle calibrated dozens of loom-like machines and repaired any that broke, while Mick and I hauled cartons of braid from the loading dock. When nothing needed doing it was fun to watch the machines suck up braid like giants slurping spaghetti, while high above dozens of spools and bobbins intertwined different colored fibers, crisscrossing with one another.
Most nights, after work, we walked straight to the east side and grabbed a booth at the International House of Pancakes. Neither of us owned a car but Mick told the waitresses he drove a Cadillac with AC and power seats. He flirted and teased, and because we were good tippers the girls flirted back.
After we’d downed enough coffee to fuel a tractor-trailer driver’s all-night run, we’d hike over to Riverside cemetery and linger by the cliffs, smoking Marlboros and talking nonsense until two or three AM. Sometimes we just gazed at the stars and moon reflecting off the black water.
Mick’s sister was buried somewhere in Riverside, but we never went near her grave. Years before I met Mick, his sister had been strangled in her bed, on Easter, while everybody was at church. My mother remembered the whole story from newspapers and TV. She told me the police questioned everybody and in the end arrested nobody.
Mick never talked to me about any of that, and I never mentioned I knew shit, though one night, while taking a shortcut, walking past old houses with dim porch lights and pitch-black windows, Mick picked up a stone big as a baseball. He wound up and pretended to throw the stone, faking me out. He did this house after house, telling me each time how nobody in this world should ever be considered safe and protected behind anything as frail as glass.
Bob Thurber is the author of 6 books, including “Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel". Over the years his work has received a long list of awards and honors, appeared in Esquire and other notable publications, and been included in over 60 anthologies. Selections have been utilized as teaching tools in schools and universities throughout the world. Bob resides in Massachusetts. He is legally blind. For more info, visit: BobThurber.net