2022 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 7
Yesterday, we focused on character. Today, let’s focus on plot.
For today’s prompt, write about a workplace drama.
Remember: As mentioned yesterday, these prompts are just starting points; you have the freedom to go wherever your flash of inspiration takes you.
(Note: If you happen to run into any issues posting, please just send me an e-mail at email@example.com with the subject line: Flash Fiction Challenge Commenting Issue.)
Here’s my attempt at writing a workplace drama:
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”
I can’t remember my first confession.
It’s not totally unusual—when you get to be my age, a lot of those early memories have faded to the soft, sepia tones of youth. More and more often, I find myself wondering if my memories are really my memories, or if they’re just stories I’ve told so often during homily that they’ve become a part of my history.
“It’s been … a while since my last confession.”
Their voice is young, perhaps masculine, but it’s never easy for me to tell. It doesn’t matter, not really. I clear my throat and shift a little in my seat. My hip is starting to smart.
“That’s perfectly alright, child,” I say. “You’re here now.”
There’s a chuckle, quiet. “I’m not sure I should be.”
Someone returning to the faith? “Church is a home for everyone. If you felt called here, then it’s where you should be.”
“That’s very generous of you.”
“I am a mouthpiece of the Lord,” I say, “I don’t need to know you to know that God loves you and wants you to be absolved of your sins.”
A thoughtful hum. I sit, wait, my patience for this kind of quiet reflection having been tested and trained a long time ago.
“I’m not sure where to begin,” they say eventually.
“Well, you must be here for a reason,” I say, “So if you’re comfortable, you can start there. Did something happen to bring you here today?”
A lull. Then, “I was missing an old friend.”
Loneliness—something I see unfortunately regularly in those who seek out sanctuary. Something I have learned to live with myself.
“It’s hard to miss someone. It can put you in a bad way, sometimes,” I say.
“This is true. And I’ve been feeling so tired lately. Spiritually, I mean. It’s been hard to find the meaning in things.”
I can feel my heart beat a little faster. It’s not that I think this might be a case of potential self-harm, but I have had to talk to more than a few people flirting with that idea. It’s never something one gets used to. And the older I get, the more eager young people seem to kiss death on the mouth.
“Did you find your meaning in something before?”
“Before you felt this way.”
There’s a noncommittal noise. “When I was younger, maybe. And then, suddenly, it all became about survival. When it wasn’t anymore, it became about just enjoying things.”
“And now you’ve found the enjoyment has worn off?” I prompt.
“It seems that way.”
The bench creaks as I try and relieve the pain in my hip. “I’m sorry to hear this. Many find comfort in returning to the Church and the community it offers. But something tells me that you’re not here for that.”
“How could you tell?”
“Call it an old priest’s intuition.” I fold my hands in my lap. “I’m not a therapist, but I can listen, if you think it will bring you some comfort. What brings you here, really?”
“I wasn’t lying when I said I was missing my friend,” the voice says softly.
“Is there a way you can reach out to this person? Reconnect?”
“That’s a wonderful place to start. Would you like to tell me more about them?”
There’s a lull in the conversation, and then, “Do you remember the lake, Neil?”
I open my mouth. Close it.
“Lately, I’ve found my thoughts back there. We were children, then, but it didn’t feel like it. It felt like we could feel the whole world’s heart beating under our fingers.”
For a moment, I can hear the water lapping the shore, the sun warming my face. Her laugh echoes through time, a ghost I’ve learned to live with. “I don’t know who you are—”
“You do. Though you weren’t so religious when I knew you.”
I swallow. Breathe. My stomach clenches hard, but I fight against it. “I only went to the lake with one person, but she was murdered long ago. I saw her body—I carried her coffin at her funeral.”
“I was dead, Neil. But I didn’t stay that way.”
“I’m not sure who you think you are—”
“July 15th, 1975, was the last time you saw me alive.”
Her voice—or what sounds like her voice—comes closer to the screen between us. I keep my eyes glued on my hands, too afraid to look up.
“We went over to the lake, and I convinced you to skinny dip with me. We were 19, and I was so in love with you that I thought it might kill me. You wouldn’t stop talking about that Pontiac you were saving up for—I told you that when you bought it, we should go out to the coast, get married on the beach. Remember what you said?”
My mouth feels numb. Still, I manage to say, “That if we got married without my mother present—”
“She’d beat us both,” she finishes.
“Lou-Anne,” I whisper. I’m both surprised and not to find my face is wet.
“I did die, Neil,” she says gently. “And then I became something else. Something … not as human.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t know how to. I’m still not sure if this is a good idea or not.”
I take a deep breath. Wipe my face. “Then why did you come?”
“I need your help. I need to figure out what comes next.”
“That’s not something I can help you do in the confessional booth.”
“Then let’s go somewhere that doesn’t hurt your back so much. The café around the corner? We can go now—there’s no one else here.”
I want to ask her how she knows these things, but the prospect of getting to see her again … I feel lightheaded.
“Well, I suppose there’s no need to assign you penance, since you weren’t actually here for confession,” I say.
“I am sorry for the years we’ve missed,” she says.
“’He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end,’” I say. “Ecclesiastes 3:11.”
I hear the door to her side of the booth open and shut softly. Then, a tap on my door.
“Neil,” she says.
I take another breath. Levy myself off of the hard bench. And open the door.