Came Home (Flash Fiction)

Sitting on the front steps, her thoughts stop when she sees the coming car. It’s dark red and new, and its tires crunch over worn gravel. Afternoon sunlight glares off a clean windshield. The license plate is marked exempt from registration, the tell-tale sign of a government vehicle. Her heart waits, and in that moment the concerns of her life are suspended, the medical bills past-due, her disabled husband coughing in the living room, an aging car in the garage needing fresh tires and an oil change.

The passenger door opens, and dust from the dry lane attacks black shoes that shine in the sun. A young man in dress uniform sees her and smiles.

Before she can cover her mouth, a shudder escapes, and tears flood her eyes. She calls out to her husband, saying only his name before her voice locks with emotion. She yearns to say more but can’t. The unsaid words sing in her heart, in her head:

He’s come home.

She stands and hurries down cement steps, rushing toward her baby-boy, her grown man, her proud and brave marine. When she buries her face into his decorated chest, all weight from her heart is lifted.

Mourning has been stayed.

Piling bills can continue to pile, and their collectors can continue to wait. Age can come and time can go, for beyond that all is trivial. They’ll be no giving of sincerest condolences today, no reception of ceremonial flag. No casket of unparalleled beauty and price need be chosen and committed to the ground, no ultimate sacrifice made.

Freed from her true worry, she weeps with absolute joy.

He’s come home.

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