The following piece was my first entry to the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction competition. This was the final round, so the prompt had no genre. All of the final 60 participants had the same prompt. It had to be set in a Mobile Home, and it had to feature a wrapped gift. See this post for more! Enjoy!
I need some space between the Gift and I. It’s taunting me, but I’m not ready to open it. I decide to walk to the farthest side of my tiny home and go to the kitchen area, hearing the floor tremble with every step. I make myself a cup of coffee, watching the bubbles dance through the kettle, the steam clouding up my glasses.
It’s been a week since Dad died. A week of grief, tears, awkward silences, sleepless nights and, to be honest, immense boredom. No-one told me how boring death is. Dad would’ve hated it. He was a man full of life. He never stopped joking, never stopped doing his best to make others laugh. Any time he came to visit me, I swear his booming laugh shook the walls of my home. Whenever Mum asked him to keep it down he often said: “There’ll be plenty of silence when we’re dead!”
He was right.
I pour my coffee and sit on the couch. I stare at the tv remote but don’t lift my hand as I know there’s nothing on. I’ve exhausted any source of distraction on the internet, and everyone else was back in their own homes. I’m alone with the emptiness of my tiny home. Alone with my loss.
And the Gift.
“Happy Birrrrthday dear Niiii-iiick! Happy Birthday to youuuu!”
A week ago, my family were here clapping and cheering as I blew thirty candles out. My brother and sister had brought their families and Dad was standing at the back of the crowd, sneakily taking pictures, beams all over his face. Mum handed me a knife and I cut the cake into slices as plates were fetched and napkins were handed out. I don’t have a big family, but with all of us crowded in this small space we felt huge. The kids began to cluster around me, one hugging me as the others tentatively poked their fingers into the cream on top of the cake.
“Luke! Aaron!” snapped my sister, looking more like our mother than I thought possible. I laughed and dipped my finger in the cream as well, dotting some cream on Luke and Aaron’s noses. The boys giggled as my sister gave out to me.
“Nick! How will they learn-”
“Shush Sarah!” said Dad, dipping his own finger into the cake, and dotting some cream on her nose. He exploded with laughter, his face turning red. The kids and most of the adults joined him as Mum and her clone folded their arms in unison, but Mum had a slight smirk. After cake, we sat around the tiny sitting area, but eleven people using only two chairs and a couch meant that most were sitting on the floor. We gossiped and caught up with one another, the condensation on the window showing us how long we were there.
Then came the presents. Everything was fine until Dad reached for the Gift.
And that’s when the day turned.
He slumped in his chair, the Gift fell to the floor.
The rest of the day, and week was a blur.
It wasn’t until two days after the funeral that I came back to the mobile home I was renting, while my house was being built. I turned the key and stepped in the door, and there was Dad’s Gift.
I go to my bedroom where the Gift is waiting for me. A beautifully wrapped box, rectangular, not much longer than my forearm. It’s wrapped so uniquely. Two different sheets of wrapping paper were used. One covers the whole box, with purple, green and blue stripes. The other pattern has the same colours, but polka dotted. The polka dot paper wraps around only half of the box, forming a little pocket. You could tell he didn’t wrap it himself. Sticking out of the pocket was a small card that had my name written on it, in my father’s handwriting.
I take the Gift in my hands and sit on the end of my bed. This is it. This is the last present my Dad will ever give me. The last way he’ll ever express himself. He was sitting here, in my home, handing me the Gift, and now he’ll never hand anyone anything again.
The Gift trembles in my hands as I wonder what could possibly be inside. It doesn’t feel heavy, and I can hear the rustling of plastic inside. Bubble wrap? What did you put in here Dad? The question I’ve been avoiding keeps barging to the forefront of my mind.
What if it’s not the perfect gift?
Its contents will be his final message to me. His last expression of love. My breath gets shallow, and tears begin to boil up behind my eyes. My father isn’t dead yet. As long as this Gift stays wrapped then he has something left to say. If I open it…
I stand and put the Gift in my wardrobe under some t-shirts. The card falls out of the little pocket. It lands open. It’s not a shop bought card, just a simple piece of paper folded in half.
I have to know.
I’m sitting in the car after buying your 30th Birthday present. The woman in the shop wrapped it for me, but I’m sure you guessed that! I hope that you’ll love it. I’m sure you will. You really have gone and grown up on me, haven’t you? It’s funny, usually it’s the father’s job to teach his son on how to be a man, but seeing the man you’ve become, I make an effort to be more like you every day. You couldn’t make me prouder, but I’m sure you will anyway.
I love you son.
Tears fall from my face and splatter the edge of the letter. I look at the Gift again as I close the wardrobe door, deciding that no, it’s not time to say goodbye. Not yet.