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.”


“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.

Estate Sale – An Orgy of Greed, Voyeurism, and Necrophilia

Candy and I have picked up a new activity/obsession – going to estate sales. I’ve always had a strange enjoyment in poking around garage sales or maybe stopping by a thrift store on my way to somewhere important, but now I’m mainlining it.

I still keep an episode of Hoarders on my DVR and watch it before going to make sure I don’t buy too much stuff. Actually, I’m not that interested in buying anything – it’s the going that’s important. You see, a true estate sale, where the owner of the house and contents is recently deceased, is a summary of a person’s entire life translated into the language of junk. You can walk through the house looking at the piles of dishes, mounds of mementos and knickknacks, and especially, stacks of books – and read the life of the owner. There, spread out on tables with little pieces of tape bearing prices is the history, values, and taste of humans beings – a life… decades of hopes and dreams, successes and failures, prizes and gifts, laid bare for hundreds of casual shoppers to see.

An estate sale is an officially sanctioned orgy of greed, voyeurism, and necrophilia, disguised as bargain hunting.

Today, you don’t have to go cruising around the hood looking for “Estate Sale” signs taped to telephone poles or stapled to stop signs. You don’t have to get out your reading glasses to squint at the classifieds. The Internet will bring you the cornucopia of an estate sale buffet right to your cathode ray tube. There are sites that list the upcoming sales, complete with glorious descriptions and often pages of photographs. There are instant messages to your smartphone, email list servers, and even Twitter accounts all poised to keep you informed about homes full of old crap for sale. So I can sit there with a website, a handful of emails, and Googlemaps and plot out a route to cruise the most interesting looking sales.

One of the unfortunate things that happened was that I hit a gusher on one of the first sales I attended. It’s sort of like getting a big win on a trip to Vegas – you keep thinking this will happen every time. You get a feeling about a person from seeing their possessions and this was a person with too much in common with me. Right off the bat, in the living room, I found a Sheaffer Snorkle Fountain Pen Desk pen on a table… twelve dollars. I scooped it up and carried it around until I bought it. Then, back in the home office room, I found bottles of ink, piles of blank journals, and a stack of calligraphy instruction books. These were priced a bit higher than I wanted to pay.

I told Candy, “This guy had a lot of ink and stuff, I’m surprised he doesn’t have more pens.” She answered, “Didn’t you see the case of pens up at the front.”

Sure enough, the mother lode. There were a handful of European school pens, some Pelikan Piston fillers, a Namiki/Pilot Vanishing Point, a Lamy 2000, and a big, beautiful Montblanc. I picked them up and looked them over – great pens. Unfortunately, the prices were a bit too rich for me so I put them all back.

The Woman running the sale said, “You know, tomorrow at noon, the prices will be cut in half.”

So that gave me a day to think about it. At 12:05, I showed up again and went straight for the case. All the pens were still there. The Montblanc was a great bargain – but that pen is for show and not the sort of thing I’m into. That left the Lamy 2000 and the Vanishing Point. It was a tough choice, I’ve always wanted a Vanishing Point, but I bought the Lamy.

The woman said, “Tomorrow, at four, for the last hour, the prices go to twenty five percent.”

So you know where I was at 4:05 the next day. The pens were all gone. That’s not a surprise – they were a bit overpriced at first, but at fifty percent they were, if not a steal, at least a good value – so they all sold. The place was getting empty – everyone was hauling out everything that wasn’t nailed down. I ventured back into the office room and discovered all the ink and paper were still there. So I scooped up four bottles of Waterman ink, six boxes of various cartridges, some blank writing journals, a metal tin of sketching pencils and accessories and a Lamy leather pen case for ten dollars.

Oh, I love the Lamy 2000. I’m working on my macro photography, I’ll see if I can put some pictures of it up here soon.

Finally, I’d like to talk about a house Candy and I visited this last weekend. It was in a nice area of North Dallas – an established upper-crust area of winding streets and big trees. It was built out in about 1974 – which is actually pretty old for Dallas standards. The house was amazing – not so much for its size, but for its unique floorplan and astonishing flair. The place had over a thousand square feet of “porches.” Every bedroom had its own little private outdoor garden – now all overgrown and rundown, but with echoes of elegance and luxury still clinging from the salad days. The kitchen was piled with setting after setting of beautiful china, crystal, and servingware – there must have been a long series of elegant dinner parties. The whole house was set up for entertaining – thick shag carpets or hand-cut stone tiles. The living room held a monstrous pipe organ – the largest and most elaborate I’ve ever seen outside a church.

The master bedroom was the size of a generous living room and painted a bright lavender. A huge headboard covered in gold leaf leaped from the bed, growing across the wall like the crown of a golden tree. Across the rest of the walls, gilt angels peered from behind gold clouds. The attached bathroom was done in deep dark purple with a gigantic tub rising on a carpeted column in the middle of the room. In every room were piles of statuary, mostly of nude women, and on the walls were hundreds of pieces of art – oddly mixed from obviously valuable originals to tacky 1970-s era hippie posters, framed and under glass.

The house was too big to show in one setting. It will be open again next weekend, with the furnishings on the outside and in the garage for sale. I’ll probably go back for another dose.

I seldom wish I was wealthy, but I’d love to drop a half-million or so for that house, then spend another couple hundred grand bringing it back to its former elegance – while updating it into the proper century.

Such dreams.

We did buy something from amid all that faded opulence… a two dollar microwave omelet pan for Lee to take back to school with him.