Uses the prompt word (elephant) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post, and 14 prompt words (advise – develop – overrated – obnoxious – notice – ludicrous – connect – toys – muddled – sophisticated – warm – balance – ray – chop) from a random word generator.
Told from Ed’s 3rd-person POV:
Ed looked up from the chaos masquerading as a half-made casserole on the kitchen counter when the front door opened announcing Joe’s return from an errand in town. He stomped the snow off his feet and tossed his coat onto the rack.
“Ran into Eliza at the grocery store.” Joe handed Ed the can of flaky biscuits he needed for the “taco bubble-up bake” he was attempting.
“Yeah? What’d she have to say?”
“She’s collecting stuff for a white elephant sale they’re having down at the church this weekend.”
“That’s not much notice.” Ed replied.
Joe shrugged and rubbed his hands on his biceps then held them out toward the preheating oven. “Damn, it’s colder than penguin snot out there. Kitchen’s nice and warm, though.”
“Anything in particular they’re looking for? Can they use clothes? We’ve both got some we never wear anymore.”
The obnoxiousRay Comfort propaganda movie Joe’s brother had given them for Christmas also came to mind, but he didn’t want to encourage anyone in town to watch that ludicrous nonsense, either. That thing was destined for a bonfire. They’d probably end up wrestling for the right to throw it on.
“They’ll take anything, but she says toys are usually most popular. If we had more time I could ask my sister if she has any old Barbie dolls or whatever.” Joe peered at the jumble of ingredients on the counter. “What can I do? Want me to chop those green onions?”
“Yeah, thanks.” Ed slid the cutting board toward Joe. To hell with grand romantic gestures. That shit was overrated. Give Ed a man that would run out for a forgotten ingredient without complaint, then join him in the kitchen as they strived to find a good balance to sorting out household chores.
Joe grinned and leaned over for a kiss that started out as a quick peck, but as he pulled away, they locked eyes. Joe stopped his retreat, and Ed pulled him back.
The kiss soon threatened to develop into a trip to the bedroom. Joe was flushed and breathing heavily when they came up for air. “Damn, if I wasn’t so hungry… How long does this take in the oven once we finish up the prep?”
“Only twenty or twenty-five minutes.” In other words, not enough time to get down to any serious fun while it was in the oven. Not without rushing, anyway. Which should he advise, putting the ingredients aside, or waiting until it was out of the oven—and likely eaten?
“Nuts.” Joe frowned.
Ed laughed at the comical grimace on Joe’s face. Joe might not be particularly sophisticated or refined, neither of them were, but they muddled through. No, they did better than that now. “Muddled” described their past. They acknowledged their love now, and the future looked bright.
The words of Steve Jobs came to mind: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
Maybe so, but he could do his best to at least line up those dots.
Ed hitched his head toward the hall that led to their bedroom and smiled. “Come on. It won’t hurt this stuff to sit awhile on the counter.”
Joe’s answering grin confirmed that was the right decision.
Once again, #sorrynotsorry for ending it here. 😜
🔽 🔼 Alt POV Scene - Scene from Chapter 5 Retold from Ed's POV
Ed pressed his lips together and stared at a photo in the album. His dad’s happy, suntanned face beamed from the two-dimensional rectangle. He could almost imagine the laughter that might have accompanied the casual scene. While Ed’s dad had been the focus of this photo, others were present, with elbows and knees making it into the frame of the spontaneous snap.
A party, perhaps? The image was in a cruise ship’s album, taken poolside on deck. Had his dad—Fred—and the man he’d been arm-in-arm with on the album’s first page gone as part of a larger group of friends, or had they made friends onboard? If the other albums Joe had described were anything to go by, Fred hadn’t been lacking in friends. Ed’s shoulders shook. Why had this cheerful, friendly man abandoned him so completely?
He stiffened and fought off threatening tears. The last thing he wanted to do was to cry in front of Joe. Joe had been a champ so far dealing with Ed’s mixed emotions, but there was no need to push to see how much Joe could take before—
Ed’s whole body shuddered and he pushed the thought aside. He started at the page and swallowed, struggling to keep his breath steady.
Joe rocked on his feet, no doubt uncomfortable with Ed’s lack of control. Ed took a couple deeper breaths to calm his nerves, then Joe’s hand landed on his shoulder. Was he trying to…? Ed shook his head, and a tremor ran through his shoulders. What must Joe think?
But Joe didn’t stop at a mere shoulder pat. He curled that hand around Ed’s biceps and pulled him up. Up and into the warm circle of Joe’s arms. Ed took an erratic lungful of air and wound his arms around Joe’s waist.
Maybe that was a mistake, but Joe seemed to be offering it. Both comfort and a shoulder, which Ed laid his head on. And why should Joe’s consolation be unexpected anyway?
When Joe petted his hair, Ed closed his eyes and tightened his hug. Joe probably felt as fish-out-of-water in this unfamiliar role as he did, so it seemed like a good idea to offer a bit of reassurance that the soothing actions were appreciated.
Ed sniffed. “Why, Joe? Fuck. Why did he leave me all alone in the world? I was so fucking alone before you.”
Joe tightened his arms in turn and gently rocked them. “We’ve got each other now. That’s all that matters.”
Ed nodded against Joe’s neck. Another rap sounded at the front door, and Ed jumped back. Back to reality. His face heated as he scrubbed it and stared at the floor.
“Ed, you can stay here. I’ll get rid of ’em.”
Their front porch was turning into Grand Central Station. Ed pulled his shoulders back, wiped his face on a napkin, and blew his nose. After a few cleansing breaths, he peeked out through the living room to see who was at the door.
A man Ed hadn’t met before, but whom he recognized as the man who’d gone on that cruise with Fred, moved back a few paces as Joe opened the door and stepped outside. “Hello, What can I do for you?”
Ed straightened and craned his neck to hear. This was the man whom Joe had recognized as the one who’d taken care of the farm before they could get there. Fred’s best friend and apparent lover, and Ed’s best bet for getting a few answers.
The man’s face was stony. “I heard you got back to town today. Thought I’d stop by and pick up something that belongs to me. It was in Fred’s possession, but it belonged to both of us, and I’d like to have it.”
Yeah, it had to be him. The same man who’d been so rude to Joe when they’d come out to see the place before making the decision to move here.
“You must be on a weak branch of the Mayfield grapevine.” Joe wasn’t making any effort to be friendly, either, but at least his tone wasn’t outright cold. “I’ve been here every day since you first saw me. Ed just rolled back in today, though. He’s been closing up our place back in Omaha.”
The man’s brows came together, and he appeared genuinely surprised. “Thought you were him.”
“My name’s Joe. Joe Durham. What’s yours, and what is it you’re looking for?”
Ed puffed out a soft snort. Probably that cruise line photo album.
“Bill Golden.” He looked away and took a breath, as if working up the nerve to say what he wanted. “It’s personal…” He waffled. “I know where it is and would prefer to just remove it myself.”
Yep, the photo album.
Joe paused a few moments before replying. “Well, it’s been moved.”
Bill narrowed his eyes, but didn’t reply.
“Look.” Joe’s tone softened. “You certainly don’t have anything to worry about from me and Ed. Here’s the thing. Ed’s never seen a photo of his father before today, and he’s having an emotional time of it. There are a couple of family albums in there, too, so I imagine he’ll be willing to part with the one you’re after.”
Bill’s tension seemed to ease a bit, but the angle of his eyebrows still broadcasted his confusion. “I’d appreciate it.”
“I know Ed would really like to talk to you about his father, He has a lot of questions. This isn’t a good time, though.”
Bill whole body stiffened, and his face pinched. “Too bad he never thought to ask Fred himself when he was alive. Woulda meant the world to him to hear from the boy.”
Ed’s jaw dropped. What the hell was Bill talking about? Ed’s legs moved before he had the chance to second guess the action. He’d crossed the living room in seconds and shoved open the screen door. “What kind of bullshit comment is that?” The heat that had rushed to Ed’s face in the kitchen now spread down his neck. “The only word you got right is ‘boy.’ That’s all I was when my mother died, and I could have used a father, desperately. Where the hell was he my whole life?”
IMPORTANT NOTE: The action in the “What If” Alternate Universe scenes start before Ed’s father is tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. The action in these scenes is NOT consistent with the published story, and CANNOT be considered a true prequel. If these scenes had happened, the book would be entirely different. Also, please note that the action in “Alternate Universe #1” is unrelated to the action in “Alternate Universe #2.”
🔽 🔼 'What-If' Scene - Ed's POV - Alternate Universe #1 - Part 1
Uses the prompt word (kiss) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post, and 14 prompt words (cool – exchange – dear – knowing – thrill – crate – building – heal – lively – rabbit – plane – general – bewildered – science) from a random word generator.
Told from Ed’s 3rd-person POV:
Ed stared out the window at the white trail behind a plane crossing the sky. “Maybe we should’ve flown to Denver.”
“Nah,” Joe replied. “It’s just one day of driving each way—about eight hours plus stops. This way we’ll have my truck to get around in while we’re there.”
“Yeah, I know. Sorry, I’ll quit bellyaching.” Lengthy road trips sucked, but Ed didn’t need to make the long drive across Nebraska worse by bitching about it to Joe. Besides, he was looking forward to everything they had planned to do in the city. Everything from the thrill of seeing a ballgame at Coors Field to the diversion of the planetarium and exhibits at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, to the awesomeness of the vintage cars at the Forney Museum of Transportation. He needed to exchange his whiny attitude about being stuck in a car for a more upbeat one that reflected his excitement for the days ahead.
A livelyrabbit hopped at the side of the road, drawing Ed’s attention to the road sign next to it. “That’s the Mayfield exit. My dad was from there.”
“You’ve never visited the town, right?” Joe flicked on the turn signal and slowed the truck. “It’s as good a place as any to pick up some road snacks. That way you can at least see the town where he lived.”
“Cool. Yeah, that’d be great.”
Joe took the exit and they traveled a few miles down a secondary highway before reaching Mayfield. They found the town square without any trouble. It was like stepping back in time as they drove the circuit, passing by a bank, a diner, a hardware store, and a general store. The pharmacy had a cute sign with crisscrossed bandages above the words, “We heal you.” Ed pointed toward a brick building with a large sign simply stating “Groceries,” and Joe pulled into a parking spot in front of it.
A middle-aged woman’s eyebrows rose sharply when they entered the store. She stood near the cash register, restocking a shelf of impulse items all stores seemed to have next to their checkout lines. Ed nodded and smiled as he picked up a hand-held basket and followed Joe. The first aisle straight ahead of them had crackers and chips visible on display, so that’s where they went.
A bushel basket atop a crate held various single serve snack items, but Joe pulled full-sized boxes and bags off the shelves and tossed them in Ed’s basket. Just as well, since they’d want snacks in their motel room in Denver, too.
The woman from the front wasn’t particularly subtle as she kept an eye on them. Maybe they looked like potential shoplifters. More likely it was because they were strangers, and in a town this size, that stood out.
“Hey,” Joe whispered. “Let’s give her something to talk about.”
“What are you planning? I don’t want to get arrested by some backwoods sheriff.”
Joe snorted. “Nothing illegal.” He bounced his eyebrows a couple times and leveled a knowing look at Ed. “Think the old dear will piss herself if I kiss you?”
Ed choked on a laugh, and Joe didn’t wait for an answer—he leaned in, placed a hand on Ed’s jaw, and planted a big smooch right on Ed’s mouth. If Joe had been hoping for an outraged reaction from the woman, he’d be disappointed, because if the smirk that appeared on her face was any indication, she was amused.
Ed added a bag of cheese popcorn to their basket and they returned to the front to pay for their food. The woman looked them up and down again. “You boys in town visiting relatives?”
“No ma’am,” Joe replied. “Just passing through.”
“Huh.” She turned to Ed. “I would’ve sworn you were a Jamison.”
Ed’s heart skipped a beat and he grabbed Joe’s arm. “I am a Jamison. Ed Jamison.” Maybe his mom had been wrong, and he did have some family still alive. “I didn’t think I had any living relatives here. Are there some? My dad was from Mayfield, but he died before I was born.”
She looked bewildered with her brow scrunched and her mouth pinched. “Hmm. Not sure who your father was, but you look a lot like Fred Jamison. He has a farm on the south side of town. He can probably sort it out for you.”
“Fred?” That had been his father’s name. Ed turned toward Joe.
Joe shrugged. “Maybe a cousin? Want to check him out?”
Ed turned back to the woman. “I’m so glad you said something. Thank you. I didn’t think I had any relatives left at all. Do you know if his number is listed? Do you think he’d mind me questioning him about the family?”
“He’s listed. You won’t need it, though.” She inclined her head toward the square out the front window. “That’s his truck in front of the diner.”
Ed grinned. “Fantastic.” He turned back to Joe. “That okay with you? We’re not on a schedule, right?”
“Yeah, no problem.”
They paid for their groceries, thanked the woman again, and left. They tossed the bags in the truck and walked toward the diner. “I’m nervous,” Ed said. “I hope this guy isn’t peeved that we’re interrupting his lunch.”
“Nah, it’ll be fine. Quit worrying.”
Ed pasted a wide smile on his face as they opened the door and entered the diner.
🔽 🔼 'What-If' Scene - Fred's POV - Alternate Universe #1 - Part 2
Uses the prompt words (tease – taunt – torture) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.
Told from Fred’s 3rd-person POV:
Fred’s phone vibrated on the diner’s tabletop, and he smirked at Bill after looking at the screen. “It’s Ruby.” She’d probably noticed his truck here and was going to tease him some more about his recent wardrobe malfunction.
He swiped and put the phone to his ear. “Don’t worry, I checked my jeans for awkwardly located holes before putting them on this morning.”
Bill shook his head and grunted. “Saw an unfamiliar truck pull in front of the store a few minutes ago.”
Ah, fresh gossip, then?
“I figured.” Ruby laughed. “No, I want to give you a head’s up. A couple out-of-towners are walking your way.”
“What’s wrong with them?” Fred picked up his water glass and shrugged when Bill quirked a brow.
“Nothin’. Though I suppose some would consider one of ’em being the spittin’ image of you to be a drawback.” Fred’s hand stilled with his glass halfway to his mouth. “Anyway, he’s a Jamison and was surprised to hear he potentially had a living relative in Mayfield.”
“He’s a Jamison?” Bill’s eyes widened at Fred’s words. “Got a first name?”
Fred carefully placed the glass back on the table before his shaking hand dropped it. Why would Ed come to Mayfield? To taunt him? No, Ruby’d said something about him not realizing he had living relatives here. How could that be?
“Ed? He’s here? He’s coming to the diner?” Fred swiveled in his seat as Bill leaned for a better look out the window. A blond man and another who did indeed look a lot like Fred tossed a couple bags into the truck Bill must’ve been referring to earlier, then the blond smiled and placed a hand on the doppelganger’s shoulder before hitching his head toward the diner and saying something.
“Recognize the name do you?” She made a sound that Fred couldn’t quite interpret. Not quite derision, but possibly disappointment. Yeah, she’d feel let down about Fred keeping her in the dark about something like this. “He said his dad had been from Mayfield, but died before he was born. They figured you might be a cousin or something.”
Fred swayed in his seat as the blood drained from his face. Of all the ways he’d imagined meeting his son for the first time, a no-notice public confrontation had never entered his mind. Ed had told her his dad died before he was born. Did he actually believe that, or was it one of those “you’re dead to me” things?
The two men slowly ambled toward the diner. It was pure torture waiting…wondering. Why had he decided to seek Fred out now?
“Fred? You still there?” Ruby’s voice sounded distant. Probably because he’d unconsciously lowered the phone.
He brought it back up. “Yeah. Sorry. I’ll call you back, okay?”
“Lookin’ forward to it.” She clicked off without another word.
Fred placed the phone on the table and half stood before dropping back down. Bill patted his hand, which told him how panic-stricken he must appear, because he and Bill avoided anything even remotely resembling affectionate physical displays in public.
“Want me to head them off?” Bill sidled to the edge of his bench seat ready to act.
“No. They look…friendly. Not hostile anyway—like they’re here to stir up trouble.”
Bill’s head tilted to the side as he continued to stare at the approaching figures. “Maybe. Want me to make myself scarce?”
Fred shook his head. “Not if you can play nice.” Hell, he could use the moral support. But… “I know this is a sore subject for you.”
“Can’t think of any good reason for him to be here—not with his history.”
“I don’t know why they’re here right now—don’t even know who the other guy is. But from what Ruby said, that shit might’ve been all Susan’s doing. He might not even know I’m alive.”
“Nope.” The two young men were almost to the diner’s door. This was it. The moment he’d been anticipating for the last twenty-odd years. Good, bad, or ugly, it was about to go down. He took a deep breath, slid out of his seat, and stood to await his son’s long-anticipated arrival.
🔽 🔼 'What-If' Scene - Fred's POV - Alternate Universe #1 - Part 3
Uses the prompt words (evil – bad– wicked) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.
Told from Fred’s 3rd-person POV:
“Unbelievable if that’s true,” Bill muttered. “That bitch is pure evil. Wicked witch of the west material.”
Fred didn’t take his eyes off the two young men approaching the diner, but waved a hand behind him to shush Bill. “She’s still Ed’s mother. She wasn’t that bad—at least not before. Don’t say that shit in front of him.”
When Ed and the other fella pushed through the door, Ed’s gaze immediately locked with Fred’s, and he smiled. Smiled. “Lady from the grocery store tip you off?”
“Wow,” the blond said. “You guys have got to be related.”
“Yeah,” Fred managed to squeeze the word around the lump in his throat. “We’re related.”
🔽 🔼 'What-If' Scene - Ed's POV - Alternate Universe #1 - Part 4
Uses the prompt words, best – writer – ever, left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.
Told from Ed’s 3rd-person POV:
Ed stutter-stepped, but Joe grabbed his arm, stopping him from falling into a klutzy heap in the middle of the diner. That would hardly have been the best first impression. The wide-eyed look on Fred’s face—a face that made him feel as if he were looking into some magical funhouse mirror that could show him his future—was disconcerting. Not at all what he’d expected out of some distant (or maybe not so distant?) cousin.
It was unsettling because Fred looked almost overwhelmed by Ed’s presence, but not in any kind of negative way because he’d had his lunch interrupted. More like he’d been waiting his whole life to meet Ed. Weird.
Ed continued forward. “Hi. I’m Ed Jamison, and this is…” He gestured toward Joe. Should he risk losing his chance to gain some information about his dad’s family in case this guy was homophobic? He cleared his throat. Fuck it. The grocery store woman had obviously wasted no time calling Fred and had probably told him about that kiss anyway. “This is my boyfriend, Joe Durham.”
Fred’s jaw dropped, so maybe the woman hadn’t tipped him off after all. “Your…” That was all he said before his head spun to stare at the other man still seated at the table. If Merriam-Webster ever wanted a picture to put next to the expression “what the fuck?” in their dictionary, they could snap a photo of that fella’s face.
The guy at the table sat back and tilted his head to gaze at Ed as if trying to figure something out. He found his voice before Fred did. “You didn’t write that goddamned letter, did you?” The words were murmured as if he was absently speaking his thoughts rather than addressing Ed.
“What letter?” Ed turned back to Fred. His lookalike’s expression had morphed from stunned to…heartbroken? Ed shrugged. “I’m not much of a letter writer. The occasional text message, maybe.”
🔽 🔼 'What-If' Scene - Fred's POV - Alternate Universe #1 - Part 5
Uses the prompt words (I – really – like – you – but – now – pretty – please – with – sugar – on – top – write – more – longer – all – the – words) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.
Told from Fred’s 3rd-person POV:
Fred didn’t answer Ed’s question about the letter. He stared into Ed’s eyes for a few moments then opened his arms and said, “I would reallylike to give you a hug now before you get ticked off about what I’m going to say.”
Ed blinked a couple times and cast a glance that could only be described as “perplexed” at his boyfriend, Joe. Joe simply shrugged, and Ed brought his gaze back to Fred. His eyebrows came together, but whatever it was that he saw in Fred’s eyes kept his expression more in the confused range rather than troubled.
Fred’s stomach flip-flopped as he alternated between confidence that all would work out, and a sneaking doubt that Ed could ever forgive him for not realizing what his ex-wife had done. But, despite swirling thoughts and emotions at war with each other, he held steady as Ed stepped into his personal space and returned the hug, even adding a firm triple-pat with one hand. Hopefully, that touch wouldn’t need to last a lifetime. With any luck, it would be the first of many.
Stepping back, Fred gestured toward the table. “This is Bill Golden.” Sadly, he didn’t have his son’s confidence to announce their relationship as glibly as Ed had done with Joe. Pretty darned pathetic, actually, because the longer he put it off, the more difficult it would likely become. “Please join us.”
The younger men shared another glance. Silent, but laced with the non-verbal communication of people used to each other’s characters and inclinations. A raised brow here, a shoulder lift there, and mutual slight nods.
Bill swiped a hand over the top of the table, shoving sugar packets out of the way, and moved Fred’s plate to his side as he shifted over, making room. Fred sat, then Joe slid across the bench opposite, and Ed dropped into place across from Fred.
Fred’s hands rested on his thighs with his fingers restlessly drumming a wild beat as he struggled to find the right words to say what he needed to tell Ed. Bill placed a hand atop the nearer one, stilling it. None of that went unnoticed, although the two across from them remained subtle in the body language they shared.
Taking a deep breath, Fred opened his mouth to speak, but Ed beat him to it. “So, this letter I didn’t write. What’s that all about?”
🔽 🔼 'What-If' Scene - Ed's POV - Alternate Universe #1 - Part 6
Uses the prompt words/phrase (“I am your father”) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.
Told from Ed’s 3rd-person POV:
Ed’s question hung in the air for a moment as Fred apparently struggled to figure out what he wanted to say. Why did they think Ed had written a letter? To whom? Fred? Had someone forged a letter in his name? Who would do that, and for what possible purpose?
The other guy—Bill—withdrew his hand from where he’d had it resting atop one of Fred’s. Judging by the way they reacted to one another, it seemed likely the two of them were a couple. That same body language also pointed toward them being some degree of closeted.
Fred’s face had lost much of the color beneath his tan. He cleared his throat and finally managed to speak. “It must have been your mother.” He shook his head like he was admonishing himself. “It wasn’t her handwriting, but I should have known she was behind it.”
“Don’t.” Bill gently nudged Fred with an elbow. “You had no reason not to take it at face value. What with him living under her influence and all.”
Beside Ed, Joe straightened suddenly. He turned to Ed with widened eyes looking as if a light bulb had gone off over his head. Whatever was going on, Joe had figured it out.
“I tried so hard, for so many years.” Fred’s gaze bored into Ed, imploring him to understand. But, understand what?
“Just tell him,” Joe whispered.
Fred slowly blew out a shaky breath. “Ed, I am your father.”
🔽 🔼 'What-If' Scene - Fred's POV - Alternate Universe #1 - Part 7
Uses the prompt words (“pink bubbly“) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.
Told from Fred’s 3rd-person POV:
“Say what?” Ed sat, blinking rapidly. His expression was otherwise blank. No anger at least. Confusion, perhaps. Possibly wondering whether he’d heard right, or maybe trying to process and make sense of what Fred had just told him.
Fred had thought about this moment often enough over the years, but the possibility that Ed had been told he’d died had never factored into the scenarios that had played out in his mind. He had no idea what emotion to expect out of Ed. Obviously something well short of busting out a bottle of pink bubbly, but with any luck it would be better than resentment and accusations. Was understanding too much to hope for?
When Ed’s face reddened and his body tensed, Joe’s hand lightly touched his shoulder. “Remember, they mentioned a letter they thought was from you but was probably sent by your mom. You know darned well what she might have written.” Joe hitched his head toward Fred and Bill. “You know…considering.”
Considering, apparently, that one wouldn’t exactly need finely-tuned gaydar to see that Fred and Bill were a couple since they’d dropped the ball when it came to maintaining their usual carefully honed public body language. A simple deduction from there would be that Fred was gay. Joe apparently knew enough about Susan—Ed’s mother—to know how vitriolic her opinion of LGBT people was.
Some of the tension in Ed’s face subsided as he sorted through that bit of information. “What about before this letter?” His words were still terse.
“You thought I was dead,” Fred replied. “That tells you everything you need to know about the lengths she went to, to keep me from you.”
“You never tried to get shared custody?”
“Of course he did!” Bill’s tone wasn’t as unruffled as Fred would have liked, but at least he kept the volume down. Fred placed a calming hand on Bill’s thigh.
“I feel like anything I say will come off like I ‘doth protest too much,’” Fred said. “I’ve got boxes filled with paperwork in my basement. I’d love nothing more than to show you the evidence of everything I’ve done.”
Which would have the collateral benefit of spending more time in each other’s company and getting to know one another. Bill lifted the hand Fred had placed on his leg and pressed it. No doubt he knew what Fred was trying to do.
Ed didn’t reply right away. Instead, he turned to peer at Joe.
“Whatever you want to do,” Joe murmured.
“What about Denver?” Ed asked.
“We’re not going to enjoy Denver if we leave things hanging here, right?” Joe shrugged. “Not a big deal if our plans get delayed…or change.”
Joe simply nodded, and Ed turned back to Fred with a more thoughtful expression on his face. “Okay. Let’s go see this paperwork.”
🔽 🔼 'What-If' Scene - Ed's POV - Alternate Universe #1 - Part 8
Uses the prompt words (magical – floating unicorn) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.
Told from Ed’s 3rd-person POV:
“Wow,” Ed muttered as he placed the last folder back in the box. His mother had gone to unbelievable lengths to keep him and his father apart. It was a mindboggling degree of deceit, and he’d bought every bit of it hook, line, and sinker.
And why wouldn’t he have done so? She was his mother, and the idea that she would perpetrate such a lie was so farfetched he would have sooner believed there was a magicalfloating unicorn waiting for him in that diner than he’d have remotely considered that his father would be alive and well, sitting there eating his lunch.
He shook his head sadly as he brushed off his hands on his jeans. The thick layer of grimy basement dust that had settled on the box supported what his father had said regarding how long ago he’d sealed it up—eight long years since he’d put his hopes on hold after receiving the letter he and Bill had referenced back in the diner. A forged letter purportedly sent by Ed’s sixteen-year-old self.
Ed shuddered as the awful things his mother had written ran through his head. That Fred disgusted him. That he didn’t want to be around Fred. That he wanted Fred to cease and desist all attempts to contact him. And she’d signed Ed’s name to the appalling letter.
Well, technically it wasn’t her handwriting, but Ed recognized it as that of one of her cronies. She’d certainly dictated it, though. He’d heard her use those phrasing choices often enough to be confident of that. It was why he hadn’t come out until after she’d died shortly before his eighteenth birthday.
Despite the unfortunate timing, Ed could hardly blame Fred for his decision to put his quest aside for ten years in the hopes that Ed’s opinions might change once he’d moved away from his mother’s influence and experienced life. Apparently, they would have met in two more years when that arbitrary period of time had passed.
Above him, the screen door banged shut, and the floorboards creaked as two pairs of feet trod across them. Ed looked up and squared his shoulders before climbing the stairs to rejoin his father and Joe. Bill had gone home to his own farm when they’d left the diner.
The sun was a lot lower in the sky that he’d expected. How long had he been down there lost in that shocking paper trail?
Ed tucked his thumbs in his front pockets and lightly drummed his fingers as he leaned against the door to the basement. The corners of his mouth quirked up at the welcomed sight of Joe…and even of his father—a virtual stranger, but he felt much closer to the man after reading through the pile of documents detailing his efforts to gain at least some level of visitation with his son. Ed’s belly fluttered, but that was most likely from hunger, triggered by the savory aroma of the meal Fred had cooking in that Crock Pot on the counter.
Fred and Joe’s cheeks were flushed from whatever they’d been doing outside. Joe seemed downright…cheery. He’d grown up on a farm, and loved that life, but things had not gone well with his dad when he’d come out of the closet, so now he was a farmhand with an outfit that traveled around helping farmers with their haying and other seasonal projects that needed extra manpower.
So it wasn’t a surprise that Joe had enjoyed the afternoon with Ed’s father. Back at the diner, Joe had said, “Not a big deal if our plans get delayed…or change,” and Fred wore his hope of spending more time with Ed right on his sleeve.
Fred and Joe halted in the kitchen when they spotted Ed. They might not have looked at all alike, but the cocked eyebrows on their faces matched. So did the sudden tensing of their muscles as they awaited Ed’s verdict.
“It’s clear,” Ed said, “that you did everything in your power short of risking jail-time to see me. And it’s equally clear that Mom lied and cheated and pulled every dirty trick in the book to prevent it. I couldn’t feel any more betrayed by what she did.” As much as Ed had originally gotten his back up thinking Fred had willfully abandoned him, it was now painfully obvious that was not the case, and he found himself wanting to get to know his father.
The rigidity evident in Fred’s shoulders and face eased, although the look in his eyes remained wary. Or maybe it was guardedly hopeful. “Thank you for understanding.”
“How do you want to proceed from here?” Ed asked, although he was pretty sure he knew the answer.
“My door will always be open to you both. Any time. Of course certain seasons I won’t be the most attentive host, but you’ll be welcome none the less.
“I’d be more than happy to pitch in and help,” Joe said. No shocker there.
“So would I,” Ed added. “Not that I know anything about farming, but I’m willing to do whatever you can train me to do.”
“Much appreciated.” Fred grinned and bobbed his head.
Ed caught Joe’s gaze and twitched a brow, silently asking a question he knew Joe would understand.
Joe supplemented his slight nod with a wink. Yep…just as Ed had thought, Joe wasn’t merely willing to reinvent their vacation, he welcomed this particular substitution. It was a change of pace, and that was enough for Joe. They could always go to Denver some other time.
“So…” Ed took a deep breath as Fred’s brow crinkled. “How’s right now suit you?”
Fred’s answering smile couldn’t have beamed any more brilliantly.
🔽 🔼 'What-If' Scene - Fred's POV - Alternate Universe #2 - Part 1
Uses the prompt words (queen – queer – queue) left in the comments of the previous week’s Flash Fiction Friday post.
Told from Fred’s 3rd-person POV:
Fred closed his eyes and fingered the envelope in his hands. It was his “Plan B” in the event Ed slammed the door in his face. Something he could wedge into the door jamb and hope Ed would read it later.
Or would that be considered stalking? Maybe he should just walk away if Ed refused to talk to him now. Or maybe he should mail the letter instead of showing up unexpectedly and uninvited. But what if his son threw it away without opening it? Surely it would be more difficult for Ed to reject him out-of-hand if he were confronted face-to-face rather than via an impersonal letter.
He opened his eyes and looked at the small house. Unless there was more than one Edward Michael Jamison in Omaha, this was it. This was where the boy—no, he was a man now—lived. Ed had been easy enough to find in online directories once Fred had steeled himself to look.
It had been eight years since Ed had written to Fred in reply to the letters Fred had sent regularly over the years. He’d never forget the words the sixteen-year-old had penned in that note, and how they’d mirrored the things Susan had said to him when they’d divorced. It had been littered with words like “faggot,” and had included words like “queen” and “queer,” which in another context wouldn’t have been pejorative, but as they’d been used in that unpleasant letter, he could pretty much picture the sneer that would have accompanied them in a verbal confrontation.
Fred had told himself ten years—he’d put it all out of his mind and wait that long to give Ed the chance to gain exposure to more diversity in the world than he’d likely had living under Susan’s rule. But, that had been an arbitrary number. Maybe he should listen to Bill and let Ed make the next move, but he was tired of waiting.
When he opened the car door, cheery voices—male voices—singing along to “Follow Your Arrow” by Kacey Musgraves drifted in the warm breeze. Fred looked at the houses on either side trying to determine where the sound originated. Unbelievably, it appeared to be coming from Ed’s house. Surely no one maintaining rigid prejudices would sing along to such a song.
He folded his envelope in two and smiled as he slipped it into his back pocket. Perhaps his internal debate regarding what he should do with it would be a moot point. He carefully stepped over a long queue of ants crossing the walkway leading to the entry. No point in messing with karma by stomping on them.
When he stood at the front door, the music emanating from within changed to Queen singing “I Want to Break Free,” and Fred’s smile broadened accordingly. If this was indeed his son’s house, surely homophobia wasn’t likely to be a concern. Either that, or he had no concept of song messaging or irony. But, if Ed had shed his prior bias, it begged the question—why hadn’t Ed contacted him? Was he now ashamed of the insults he’d hurled at Fred in that long-ago letter? Did he think Fred would hold a grudge?
Fred took a deep breath, straightened his shoulders, and knocked before he could talk himself out of it.