Once more it’s story time. This week’s blog post features another short story challenge based upon a four item prompt. The items that were to be included in this tale:
A toy fire truck
A carton of soured milk
A collection of Frank Sinatra albums
Enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.
I was watching my two grandkids overnight. One was five. His brother was twelve––the chronological void between child and teenager. By eleven o’clock, the boys had finally settled in their beds. I headed to the family room to settle my nerves.
Couch cushions beckoned. I obliged––with a sigh––and reached for the book I’d brought along to read that lay on the end table. My tweenage grandson’s virtual reality headset lay beside the novel. I’d heard how amazing the VR devices were but had avoided experiencing the thrill. What the heck. The kids are probably asleep. Their parents won’t be home till well after one. I can embarrass myself in solitude and nobody’ll ever know…except grandma, watching down from heaven. But she’ll understand.
To assure my assessment about the boys was correct I tiptoed up the stairs to their bedrooms. Only the murmur of children’s steady breaths disturbed the silence. I grinned. Time for grandpa to sneak back downstairs and have some fun.
In the family room once more, I fumbled with remembering how to activate the reality gizmo but eventually achieved success. After donning the headset I gasped. The images were astoundingly three-dimensional and caught me off guard. I stepped back…onto the five-year-old’s toy firetruck.
In the emergency room I experienced a different kind of reality. The ER doc told me I’d torn my left ACL and fractured the humerus in my left arm––which didn’t feel at all humorous. Before he left me with my family, the doctor added, “We’ll be keeping you for a couple days. You’re scheduled for surgery in the morning.”
I rolled my eyes. “Thanks.”
My son asked, “Okay. What happened?”
His twelve-year-old piped up, “Grandpa was playing with––”
My squint-eyed glare cut him off. “I wasn’t watching where I was going and stepped on Braydon’s fire truck. It was an accident. Alright?”
I departed the hospital in a motorized wheelchair. Although chasing the five-year-old around the house was fun, three lo-o-o-ong days recuperating with my son and his family got rather testy. Convincing them that I was burdening their lifestyle and that I could now manage on my own was difficult but necessary. After all, I had neighbors who would gladly help if needed.
That weekend my son drove me back to my third-floor condo on the beach. The air inside was hot and stale from lack of circulation. The carton of milk in my refrigerator had soured. Flushing lots of water down the drain didn’t rinse away the odor. I brutalized a slightly shriveled but still meaty lemon with the garbage disposal to conquer the smell. Meanwhile, my son rearranged the furniture to make my quarters more wheelchair accessible. Afterward, he left to dump the trash, then purchase some groceries for me.
As the door clicked shut, I closed my eyes and breathed a sigh. Home again. Left foot first, I maneuvered through my reorganized abode. Pathways had been cleared to ease moving from room to room and to my three favorite spots: my library, my stereo system, and the floor-to-ceiling living room windows that overlooked the ocean.
I rolled to the rack of LP records and CD’s––in particular, my collection of Frank Sinatra albums. Hearing Old Blue Eyes croon would help ease any remaining discomfort. Although I was a true audiophile that preferred the LP recordings, my CD player provided the convenience of loading multiple albums.
I’ve got the World on a String cued up as I wheeled toward the large windows. I paused and stared at my current transportation. “Can’t say I agree with the lyrics, Frank, but… Doc says I’ll be up and around again soon enough––for him anyway.”
Something thumped behind me. The CD changer skipped to the next track and Sinatra began singing High Hopes. I turned and glanced around the open floor plan. A disc case had fallen from the shelf it normally occupied and had jarred the changer. I chuckled. “Geez, Frank, you almost flew me to the moon, but it was only something stupid.”
Outside, waves broke against the pier that jutted into the Atlantic. Breakers that bypassed the obstruction struggled up the beach, then lost their grasp and receded, only to try again, and again, and again. Their stubborn, optimistic rhythm seemed appropriate to the song flowing from the speakers and further eased my mind.
A dot near the horizon caught my eye. I backed up to the tripod-mounted, brass telescope poised at the windows. Not only did the looking glass provide pop to my masculine décor, on many occasions it had also helped satisfy my curiosity.
I focused the lens on a sailing yacht anchored a mile or so off the coast. A nude woman frolicked on the upper deck. Behind me Sinatra was singing, “…that’s why the lady is a tramp.” I jerked my head toward the stereo. Coincidence or what? I glanced out to sea, then back to the CD player. Though not a prude, I’d never considered myself a pervert, either. But for now I was stuck in a wheelchair. What else was there to do?
As I pivoted the telescope back to my eye, the disc switched to the next track––Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Although Frank’s sense of timing was making me feel bewitched, bothered, and bewildered, I refocused on the yacht. The naked woman now had company––two more naked women and three men. Two of the guys were also undressed. The third man was outfitted in dark clothing and pointing a gun at the other five. I focused on the gunman’s face but he was wearing a mask. Scanning the boat from bow to stern, I spotted an inflatable Zodiac tied to the aft rail and riding the waves. Was I witnessing a robbery or something more serious?
I pulled my cell phone from my pocket. It slipped from my hand and bounced to the floor. When I maneuvered the chair to retrieve it, a crunching noise caused me to stop. A wheel had run over the screen and crushed it. The panic portrayed by James Stewart in Rear Window overwhelmed me. I wiped sweat from my brow, then looked through the telescope once more. Sinatra began singing The Best is Yet to Come.
The door to my condo swung wide.
I spun from the scope. “Jesus I’m glad you’re here.”
My son shuffled inside bear hugging three bags of groceries. “Uh…okay. What’s up? Anything wrong?”
“A yacht off the coast is being robbed…or worse.”
“Whatta you mean? Where?”
I pointed at the window. “Out there. Look through the telescope and give me your phone. We’ve gotta call 911.”
My son frowned. “What happened to your phone?”
“Just give me your cell and look through the telescope.”
He frowned again, failed to relinquish his phone, and stared through the lens.
“Well?” I demanded.
“All I see is an oil tanker…way off the coast.”
“What?” I grabbed the telescope again and scanned the horizon. One tanker. No yachts.
“Isn’t that your phone on the counter, next to your pain pills? How many of those have you taken today? ”
I turned the chair around and blinked. For a moment, my son had resembled Alfred Hitchcock. “Uhmm, maybe I should––”
“Maybe I should grab those groceries I just bought and take you back home with me. From my perspective, you’re not quite ready for independence.”
Sinatra crooned from the stereo, “…it’s witchcraft, that crazy witchcraft…”
I sighed. “Maybe you’re right.” ‘Cause my way doesn’t seem to be working out.