At Home (Flash Fiction)

Catherine saw the mail carrier pull away and leave a trail of dust that hung in the air above the long lane. The white vehicle disappeared into the seas of golden wheat. She dried the dish in her hand, set it in its place, and quietly went outside. Inside the wooden mailbox, one that hoisted a small American flag, her plane tickets waited.

She darted through her bedroom with a nervous pace. She packed her things with trembling hands. She chose carefully, considering all the possibilities that may find her, so that she would only need one case. The last item she gathered and tucked away was a picture of her and Bob on their wedding day. She held it with a guilty sadness and kissed its glass surface.

She finished with the dishes and broke a glass. She undercooked the potatoes and nearly burnt the chicken. In her worry of trying to keep things normal, she realized that she forgot to bake the bread. Bob came in at his normal time and kissed her on the cheek and washed his hands. She set the table. Bob took a long look from the kitchen window at the dusty lane that led away from their house. “Mail today?”

“Why do you ask?” said Catherine with a suddenness. She quickly put food on Bob’s plate.

Bob turned and slowly came and sat at the table. “What are you doing?”

Catherine paused mid-serving. The large spoon, filled with chopped potatoes, shook slightly in her hand. “I’m fixing your plate.”

Bob placed a weathered hand on her soft wrist and lowered the spoon down. “We didn’t say grace.”

Catherine quickly placed her hands in her lap and bowed her head. Bob watched her closely. Her breath was shallow and rapid. Bob folded his hands, closed his eyes, and said his words. He watched Catherine finish piling food onto his plate. “Did you get a letter?” he asked. She hurried the rest of the food on and left the spoon in the pot.

Catherine rotated her dish on the table, turning it this way and that. It was her mother’s old china, chipped and worn, but it was still beautiful to her. It reminded her of home. Everything did. “I’m leaving you, Bob,” she said.

Bob gave a polite nod. “Where are you leaving me for this time?” he asked.

“I mean it!” she said. “I’ve got the plane tickets in my purse. My suit case is packed. I’m leaving,” she said, her voice trailing off. She turned her gaze to the dining room window to see the setting sun through the doily curtains. “I just can’t stay here no more,” she said. Her voice, previously so high and mighty, was again soft and quiet.

“Paris this time?” Bob asked. He took a disapproving bite of the potatoes and tried the chicken.

“I’ve lived here my whole life,” she said. “I ain’t never seen nothing. Just tornadoes and corn and wheat.”

“This is your home,” Bob said. “You grew up here. You raised your children here. You buried your own parents in the back.” Bob gave a gentle wave with his hand. “Three generations of us line that there slope. This is your home, Catherine. You belong here, not nowhere else.”

Catherine nodded. The sun bathed the golden ocean around their farm with light. In the distance, she could see the shadows from her family’s tombstones. “I’ll return the tickets,” she said.

“Don’t bother.” Bob took another bite of chicken. “Keep ’em for when we go through this again next time.”

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