Free Flash Fiction:
By: Jae El Foster
Rigid is a humanity that breaks down the bridges it has worked so long to build, Ronald Morris, Jr., thought as he sat in traffic – the third car in a row of many, awaiting a red traffic light. The lights at this intersection were on timers, and as he wasn’t an impatient man, he paid no mind to the wait. Instead, he watched through the window of a convenience store to his right as the cashier seemed to violently argue with a customer.
“People have no courtesy for others anymore,” Ronald mumbled and looked away from the window long enough to see if his lane had begun to move. It had not, and so he looked back to the spectacle in the store. His eyes widen from shock as the customer pulled a gun on the cashier and fired. The clerk slumped backward against the wall and slid to the floor, out of Ronald’s view. “Jesus!” Ronald shouted.
Ahead, the light turned green and the cars in front of him began to move. Ronald looked toward the road and lifted his foot from the break, ready to press on the accelerator at any presented moment. His car was old and it had old fashioned windows, an old fashioned radio, and old fashion locks. He didn’t have anything modern – no need for it – but this made it much easier for the shooter from the shop to rush to his car and open the passenger door just as he began to roll forward.
“Drive,” the woman said, climbing into the car and shutting the door behind her. Ronald glanced at her as she fastened her seatbelt. “I said drive!”
Ronald looked at the cars ahead of him. They were moving, and so could he. He was nervous – scared – and he was thankful that he could do as this crazed lady next to him asked.
“Take the next right. Go up two blocks and then take a left,” she ordered, and then she pulled out her cell phone, rolled down the window, and threw the phone out to the street. “We have to get things from my trailer. Then, you’ll drive me to the bus station.”
“Are you going to kill me?” he asked her, terrified of what the answer would be.
She looked at him and was silent at first. Then, shaking her head, she said, “No. Not if you do everything as I ask.”
At the end of the street, he took a right, glancing in the rearview mirror to see if there was a cop behind them, but there was not.
“Did you kill him?” he asked her, knowing he should have remained silent but finding it impossible to do so. “The man you robbed…”
“You don’t know nothing about shit, you hear me?” she replied and then stiffened in her seat. “He’ll live. I shot him in the arm. And I didn’t rob him.”
Two blocks down, he turned left. The houses in this neighborhood gradually changed from bad to worse as he drove.
“This road dead ends,” the woman told him. “Turn right and go for two miles. My trailer’s on the left – the last driveway before nothing but farmland.”
At the dead end, Ronald turned right. The name of the road was Chicken Coop Road, and even as he had lived in the city all of his life, he had never seen or heard of such a place. He was afraid of where she was leading him.
“If you didn’t rob him,” he asked her and swallowed through the knot in his throat, “then why did you shoot him?”
“Do you want to live?” she whispered through gritted teeth.
“Then just shut up, okay?”
The last drive was easy to spot, as fields of crops began to control the landscape just feet away from it. Yet, the driveway itself was shrouded in the shade of thick trees. He turned the car into the drive – uttering not another word – and drove up a short hill to a trailer that looked as if it should have been condemned long ago. A dead dog decayed in the yard, just feet away from the steps. It was still chained and still had a food dish near it.
“Keep the car running,” she told him as she unfastened her seatbelt and opened the door. “And don’t you leave me. Please.”
She shut the car door and ran up to the trailer. She disappeared from view the second she entered it.
He could have left her – right then. She did not know who he was or anything about him. Yet, there was something in the way she had said please that kept him and his old car waiting in her driveway. It had whispered of sincerity – of humanity – and he felt himself paralyzed… unable to turn away from it.
Less than a minute later, he saw her step outside the trailer with a baby in her arm and a small boy at her hip. She rushed them to the car and opened the door to the backseat. The little boy climbed in and buckled his seatbelt. She shut his door and opened hers, fastening up with the baby in her arms.
“He’ll find us, Momma,” the little boy whined as Ronald backed out of the driveway.
“No, he won’t,” the woman replied to her son. “Not this time. This nice man here is going to take us to the bus station. You won’t have to worry about your Daddy hitting you no more.”
A ball had been thrown into Ronald’s court, and although not good at sports, he was good at being human. He did not take the mother and her children to the bus station that day. Instead, he took them to the airport, where he paid for three seats to fly them to a brand new life, far away from the monster that abused them. The next day, Ronald would further his charity to humanity and see to it that the monster from the convenience store never hurt anybody again.
Copyright Jae El Foster, 2018