Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – The Graduate At Home by Bill Chance

Benjamin Braddock: Mrs. Robinson, I can’t do this anymore.
Mrs. Robinson: You what?
Benjamin Braddock: This is all terribly wrong.
Mrs. Robinson: Do you find me undesirable?
Benjamin Braddock: Oh no, Mrs. Robinson. I think you’re the most attractive of all my parents’ friends. I mean that.
—-The Graduate

 

A wide angle view of Dealey Plaza at dawn on the morning henge day (or two days later). The brick building in shadow on the far left is the infamous Texas Schoolbook Depository. President Kennedy was shot on the curved road on the left, almost fifty years ago.

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#88) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


The Graduate At Home

 

“Another postcard from Da and Mum.”

It always shocked me a bit to hear my father refer to his parents as “Da and Mum.” He was too successful, too proper, too correct, too comitted to precision and accuracy, and, especially, too old to refer to anyone, let alone his parents, with a juvenile, pedestrian term of endearment like “Da and Mum.”

“Where are they now, Dear?” asked my mother.

“Some island. Santorini. They say it’s beautiful. The postcard sure is, take a look.”

“Yes, Bishop dear, it sure looks special.”

“Brenda, they always make postcards look nice, it’s probably dusty and dirty.”

“Santorini is an island in the Aegean,” I said. I had read about the place on Wikipedia only a week ago. I had seen some movie full of stunning sunsets and nude beaches on cable and had looked up the filming location. My parents swiveled their heads to look at me, but their expressions didn’t change. “It’s the remains of an ancient volcano, the partial rim of a crater, that’s all that’s left. There used to be a civilization there. It was destroyed in a massive explosion during the Minoan age. A lot of people think that was the source of the legend of Atlantis.”

“That’s nice, dear. You certainly are full of information,” my mother said.

“He’s full of something all right,” I heard my father mutter under his breath as he stood up with his cup of coffee and headed for the front door.

“Do you have to go to the office today dear? it’s Saturday and a beautiful day,” asked my Mom.

“Somebody has to pay for all this,” Dad said with an expansive eye roll. If his hands weren’t full with coffee and his briefcase he would have made a rainbow-shaped gesture, indicating exactly what he meant by “all this.” He said that all of the time and I was never really sure what he was talking about.

“Could you please get Sammy to work on his papers,” he said to my Mom as he balanced the coffee cup and pulled the door shut. “Graduate school won’t wait forever.”

“Dear,” my mom said.

“I know!” was the only reply I could choke out.

“Sammy. Please give it a stab. I’m off too, there’s a meeting for the spring charity ball down at the club. I’d love to see something finished when I get back.”

“Mom?”

“Yes, Sammy.”

“Why don’t we ever talk about your parents, I haven’t met them since I was ten. We always talk about Da and Mum.”

“Well, Sammy. I guess it’s better to have one good set of Grandparents that two sets of crummy ones. Now, go up to your desk, please, I’m off.”

Before she stood up to go she stared at me with a sadness in her eyes, the saddest I have ever seen.


The desk in my room was covered in beautiful carefully coordinated mahogany and leather office accesories, purchased by my mother from the Levenger store at the Galleria. It was all fastidiously and artfully arranged. I had never even touched any of it.

Three piles of various forms were stacked in a neat row across the front of my desk. Each one corresponded to a university that my parents, the graduate school advisor, and a professional educational consultant had chosen as my best matches. I have to admit, they did a good job – somehow, they had chosen the three I would have picked if I had gone it alone. Most of the spaces in the forms had been already filled out – I only had to complete a few paragraphs of opinions “In my own words.” The spaces for my responses were marked with little blue stick-on arrows and the places where my signature went were signified by red ones.

I’m not a bad person, I swear. I want to do good. I want to do the right thing. I stared at the piles of paper. An expensive, beautiful, large, gold and black Montblanc Meisterstück fountain pen, an early graduation gift, sat across the center pile at a forty-five degree angle. I reached for the pen and was able to get my hand within an inch and a half, but no closer. Beads of sweat broke out on my face and my hands began to tremble. I felt my gut tumbling and a bitter bile of fear swelling up in my throat.

I wanted to be good. I wanted to fill out the forms. I really did. But I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to lift that pen and my fear of those simple forms had grown to such a size that I couldn’t breathe and look at them at the same time.

Swamped with disgust I flopped onto my bed, turned on the television. And for the rest of the day, stared and hit the next button on the remote control every thirty seconds.

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