Flash Fiction Friday – An Apple a Day

Welcome to my second Flash Fiction Friday. This is a story I wrote called An Apple a Day. I hope you enjoy!

An Apple a Day

Angus Flannagan walked through the door kicking up a cloud of dust. The day was hot and a blast of heat followed him. The store, full of barrels of flour, tools for mining, and sweets for the little ones, was nearly empty except for the man behind the counter. He wore spectacles and suspenders. His nose reminded Angus of a hawk and his eyes were about as beady as one. Angus nodded his hello and pawed through the store. 

He placed the hammer, the hatchet, and the rope on the counter.

“Three ninety-five,” the storekeeper announced without looking up at Angus.

“And one of those.” Angus pointed to a barrel of apples, red and juicy.

“‘Twill be a penny more, unless you’re looking to buy five, in which case that’s two pennies. ‘S as good a deal as you’ll find round here.”

“Just the one.” Angus gathered his things and made his way out of the store back into the hot and dusty day. He slung the rope around his shoulder, carried the hatchet in one hand and the hammer in the other. The apple he put in his pocket.

Angus thought about Judith on the way back. She’d been young and beautiful when they first met. She hadn’t said much, only smiled. That suited Angus fine and all he did was smile back. They’d spent a lot of quiet moments together since then, just smiling. Her auburn hair matched well with his shock of red on top and they had gotten along just fine. Just fine. Most days anyway.

They’d had their trouble of course, what couple doesn’t? She did miss her mother though. It took Judith ages to persuade him but Angus agreed to have the woman sent for. Within a fortnight Mrs. Sally Winthrop had arrived on a fancy carriage drawn by two black horses. Nevermind that Angus didn’t have space nor seed to feed the animals. Didn’t have much use for a fancy carriage either. Still, they made do. Angus was good at odd jobs and didn’t mind the sting of a hard day’s work on his hands now and again.  

Every week he would go into town, get the tools he needed, go to some neighbor and patch a roof, or fell a tree or whatever had been needing done. Word soon spread that Angus was a handy fellow to have around. And although he would never say it out loud to anyone, Angus supposed he was pretty handy. 

A year passed, then another, then another and soon a strapping baby boy was born. Mrs. Sally Winthrop was none too interested in the child, although she did admit he was a handsome one. What Mrs. Sally Winthrop wanted most was for the child to be silent at night, so that she could get some sleep. No matter what they did, the child would wake at all hours, crying his lungs out. Feeding helped some and there had been the occasion where a small swig of brandy had made its way into the child’s milk at night. Those had been rare but Angus understood the necessity of it. If it kept his mother-in-law happy, he supposed it was none too harmful.  

Judith had found it difficult though. Angus was gone a lot of the time tending to his odd jobs and Mrs. Sally Winthrop could be a might demanding at the best of times. Angus remembered more than one occasion in which he arrived home to raised voices. It always threw him when he heard Judith yell. Judith who never wanted to be anything but quiet. She loved to read or knit or cook. Sometimes she hummed a little tune but for her to yell, loud enough that Angus could hear it outside? That was some serious arguing in Angus’ opinion. 

Mrs. Sally Winthrop’s favorite thing was to argue about the boy. Angus still thought of Pete as “the boy” because that’s what Mrs. Sally Winthrop always called him. Angus supposed it was because he had been the one to name Pete. That must’ve irked Mrs. Sally Winthrop to high heaven. She’d insisted the child be named Marcelus after her father’s father. Considering that Angus didn’t know the man and Judith only had the vaguest of memories of him, they decided against the name. Mrs. Sally Winthrop did not forgive slights or insults easily.

Angus noticed the dust gathering on his boots as he walked. He looked back at the trail he had left. There were footprints that led back to the store. He looked up at the sky and wondered if clouds might roll in soon. It was so hot, though, that it seemed unlikely. Nothing to do about the footprints then. His boots would need a shine but then again, so did everyone’s on a day like this.

The front door was painted red. Angus had painted that door together with Judith. The pair standing next to each other in silence as they worked. It had been the last thing Angus added to the house and he wanted to make sure they had both put it in together. After the hinges were on and the door framed, Judith declared it was in need of some color. It was the same red as the apple that Angus had bought. He knew when he stepped through it this time, there wouldn’t be any arguments. 

Judith sat on the couch. Tears fell down her cheeks in silent rivulets. Mrs. Sally Winthrop lay on the floor. There was a red, angry, wound all the way around her neck. Pete sat in the corner, playing quietly by himself. 

Angus nodded his hello. Judith tried to smile but it wouldn’t come.

“Judith, sweetheart, you know that she deserved it, don’t you?” Angus asked.

Judith nodded.

“I never minded the touch of brandy she’d give him, but arsenic, I never thought she’d go that far. I suppose it’ll take a little while to clean this up. How’s your hand?” Angus bent down to look at the bandage she had wrapped around it. 

“Still sore a little. She bucked some as I held the rope. She didn’t see me coming from behind but as soon as she felt it, she kicked something fierce.” Judith bowed her head and clutched at Angus.

“Don’t you worry darlin’, no one’s gonna know what you done. I got us some new tools and one of them juicy apples you like so much. I walked an extra two miles outside of town and bought at the first store I saw.” He handed the apple to her and she slipped it into her apron.

For the next hour, Angus worked outside in the hot sun. He had lumber enough to make the wooden box and plenty of nails. The new hammer drove true and the work went faster than Angus had expected. The hatchet was sharp and did its work cleanly. Mrs. Sally Winthrop was laid to rest with little fanfare in front of the house. They had lowered the box into the ground with the same rope that had done the job. After, Angus hung the new rope where the old one had been. As loathe as he was to do it, he tossed in the hatchet and the hammer, perfectly new, into the ground with the box. He buried the spot with dirt. He patched the dirt up and then made rows to plant seed in. It would take a year or two but there would be some fine apple trees just above Mrs. Sally Winthrop. 

It was weeks before anyone one noticed her absence in town. Angus did his best to keep things as normal as possible. He did his odd jobs, worked with his neighbors, and came home to Judith and Pete. She sat crying quietly to herself most days. Pete had gotten a lot quieter too. He slept much easier now. He seemed to be the only one.

 On the day that the sheriff came to their red door, Angus had been out helping to haul in some lumber. When he arrived back, he had his rope slung around his shoulder. It was still new and unfrayed.

“Angus,” the sheriff nodded.

Angus nodded back.

“People are starting to get worried Angus. No one’s seen Mrs. Sally Winthrop in town for a while. Is she sickly?”

“No sir, she went out to visit some relatives.” Angus hitched up his shoulder to keep the rope from sliding off.

“Looks like you’ve plowed some new ground out here. What are you growing?”

“Some apple trees. You know how Judith likes her apples.”

“I do. I’m sure she’ll appreciate you not having to make a run to town for them.”

“I suppose.”

“Listen, Angus, some people said they hear some shouting over here on occasion. That so?”

Angus nodded.

“Pete could get loud some. She didn’t like it and her and Judith tended to argue. That’s why she left. Couldn’t stand the country, or the noise.”

“You mind if I go in and ask Judith some questions?”

“No need for that. She’s laid up with migraine right now. Anything you need to know, I can tell you.”

“Alright. You say Sally left town. I heard there was some arguing. Could be she left town, could be something else happened. I’m wondering a couple things though. No one saw a fancy carriage leave town, like the one she rode in on. Her horses are still here too. Want to explain that?”

“She hired a driver, simple as that.”

The sheriff nodded.

“Collins at the mercantile says he hasn’t seen you in weeks. He told me he’d go out of business if you didn’t come in to buy fresh tools and apples regularly. You been down to the store lately?”

“Can’t say I have. You really need to know all this, Dale?”

“Just my job. When’s the last time you bought some apples for Judith?”

“I don’t know must have been about three weeks ago. She loves them but I haven’t had too much chance to get around lately.”

“Angus, I hate to do this, and this is just a formality, but I’m going to need you to come into town with me. Me and the boys are going to have a few more questions for you. That alright?”

Angus nodded.

“Can I say goodbye to Judith and Pete first?”

Dale slapped him on the shoulder and gave him a nod.

“You go on and do that. I’ll be right out here.”

Angus went in and held Judith and Pete for a few minutes. He smiled at them and left without a word.

The day that Angus was sentenced for murder was a hot one. Dry and dusty. Angus had made sure that Judith’s name was never mentioned. Most people in town wouldn’t believe Judith capable of something like that anyway. She wasn’t handy the way that Angus was.               

Across from him sat a man with a hawk nose and eyes just about as beady as one. When the judge asked how the man was certain that Angus had bought the items they found under the fresh patch of dirt the man was quick with his reply.

“He only bought one apple. No one passes up five for two pennies.”


Introducing: Flash Fiction Fridays

Hey everyone. If you’re a reader of my blog you may have noticed I didn’t post a lot in February.

Well, there was a reason for that. I was participating in Flash Fiction February so a lot of my writing time was spent on that. I used the prompts in the Storytelling Collective for some of the stories I wrote and I just wrote whatever I wanted on some of the other stories. I’ve submitted a story to be included in Flashbang! Volume III. Once that comes out I’ll link to it here but I thought it might be fun to share a few of my stories on my blog. I can’t promise I’ll be posting one of these ever single Friday but I will when I can. I’m a few stories ahead so for a little while at least, there will be one each Friday.

In case you don’t know, flash fiction is a very short story. It usually means anywhere from 1-1,500 words but not more. I like writing these because the time investment is not too heavy for someone who is working full time.

If you enjoy these stories, or even if you don’t, let me know in the comments, just remember to keep it civilized. I’m totally open to criticism and want to improve so feel free to let me know what you think. If no one enjoys these I probably won’t keep posting but if they go over well, I’ll likely post more stories here.

One last thing to note is these are my stories which I own the copyright to so please no plagiarizing. If you do like them though, please, please feel free to share, reblog, post on your social media and all of that good stuff.

The first story I’m going to share with you is an old one I wrote quite some time ago. But, the prompt of the word Time from last year’s Storytelling Collective Flash Fiction February reminded me of it and it was one of the first stories I wrote that actually felt like a story to me. This one is called Time Served.

Time Served

I need time, I need money, I need sleep.  The train rattles me along as these thoughts thunder in my head.  Just out of lock-up and released from parole I head towards my son.  I can’t sleep with the sound of the tracks thudding against me.  Any money I had is gone.  I got extra time for not pleading guilty to something I never done.  One man in a red shirt is the same as another to some people.  The therapist said I couldn’t let go of my anger until I admitted my wrongdoing.  Can’t admit to something I never done.  Can’t help being angry they didn’t believe me when I told the truth.

Six years gone.  Conviction overturned.  I need time, I need money, I need sleep.  I wonder if my boy knows me.  I wonder if I know him.  I wonder why she never visited me.  I wonder what happened in all that time.  I wonder if I will see wrinkles on her face and bags under her eyes.  The train rolls along, steady, steady.

They gave me a pass, said I had no parole but no place to stay, no compensation neither.  Just a ticket to anywhere I want to go.  I go to my boy.  Getting off in Wisconsin, the chill wind hits me like a fist.  I pull my cap lower over my ears and start walking.  No money left, none for the bus ticket. 

My old man was a con.  Only my old man was guilty.  I saw him take that money, I saw him point the gun.  My boy never saw me with no gun never and I don’t want him to.  My legs ache from the stretch of walking, so much walking, and I sit down for a minute on a bench.  In the yard they let us walk.  One hour every day.  The only hour of the day my body was allowed to move and feel free.  The time my mind brought images of my boy.  Safe in the outside world up on the monkey bars, out in the snow, laughing with his friends.

I reach the address I have written down.  The paper I hold in my hand is the only letter, only sign of anything I ever got from her in all that time.  One letter, one address, one bit of bad news I still can’t process.  I don’t want to walk in there.  I’m more afraid than I was the day they locked me up for good.

I stamp my feet and walk through the doors.  They slide open automatically.  The smell hits me.  It’s sterile and clean.  Going up to the room I pass people in scrubs.  I can’t help but think how the guards look the same in their uniforms.  They are the people that have access to the outside.  They are the ones that can leave all this behind.  Not me.  Not her.  Not my boy.  All of us prisoners.

I reach the room and she is in a chair by the bed, a book on her lap.  The machines are by him.  They loom large like iron gated walls did for me.  She looks up.  I see the wrinkles, I see the tiredness.  She gives me a crooked smile but doesn’t move.

I have been traveling for so long, unable to sleep, unable to think, I don’t know what to say.  She lets out a sob.  I left off crying long ago.

I wait for her to say something.  She never does.

I look at the boy.  The machines breathe for him.  It’s worse than I had imagined.  I was locked in a room but my body was always free to move. I have no scars, just my ink. He has bandages covering all of his scars and bruises. I wasn’t there when it happened.  I keep thinking how he always held my hand at the crosswalk.  Even when he was too old for it, he always reached for my hand. 

 “You thought I done it,” I say.

“It would make it easier,” she says.  Then she sits silent, her eyes staring at the floor.

“All this stuff.  These things keeping him from dying, how much they cost?” I ask.

“There was a settlement.  Money’s almost gone now.  Court says the driver paid his share. Doc says he could get better. ” She looks away from me.

We sit and say nothing.  The windows go dark and night falls.  Still I sit when she leaves.  I look at my boy with contraptions in his mouth and his chest moving up and down in rhythm.  There is one that says Brain Wave Activity.  It moves back and forth, rapid fire, faster than I can follow it.  His mind is screaming to get out.  The way I was screaming to get out.  I thought I had no chance but they let me out in the end.  I want to let him out too.

I think about my time in lock-up.  I think about how they put me there for nothing.  I think about how if I had at least been guilty I could try to make up for what happened.  But for this there is nothing.  I try to sleep but I can’t.  My boy never moves on his own.  Not once.

I start to think that lock-up isn’t so bad.  I start to think about how I can survive there.  I start to think what it would have meant if I had robbed somebody.  I start to think how hard it is going to be to find someone that will hire a man who served time.  I start to reconsider the gun.  I start to think that maybe all the money I could get will help my boy live longer. I start to wonder if I should do what I served time for.