Flash Fiction April 12, 2020
Pinawa Public Library
April 12, 2020
The flash fiction stories continue! This week, Pinawa author Mike Luke shares his flash fiction story featuring a character some of you might recognize: Colin Therman. If any of you decide to try your hand at flash fiction and would like to share, email the Pinawa Public Library and we’ll feature it as our flash fiction story of the week!
The library might be closed, but we’re continuing to look for new ways to stay connected with our patrons. Through our websites we have access to Tumblebooks until August (for free!), including Tumblebooks for kids, Tumblemath, teen books, audio books and adult romance books. And for those patrons who love Harry Potter or know people that do, for the month of April, J.K. Rowling has granted patrons access to Harry Potter at Home, an online learning resource, including free access to audio books.
This week’s flash fiction story features fictional Pinawa investigator Colin Therman as he brings joy to an old friend during Covid-19.
By Mike Luke
Officially it was the Retired Gentlemen’s Club, although it wasn’t really a club and there was nothing official about it. In fact the members – all six of them – referred to it, to themselves, as the Old Farts, although usually not with capital letters. They met every Thursday morning at the Pinawa Club for coffee and blather. They were all men, although in their view there was nothing stopping women joining if they wanted. They had nothing against women, quite the opposite, and one woman had sat with them for a while but she’d stopped coming after a few sessions, much to their disappointment, complaining that all they talked about was sports and who had died. It’s true that they did pour over obituaries perhaps more than was healthy. Possibly it was a form of survivor’s guilt as they thought about what so and so had been like when he was young and active and wondered how it was that he was dead and they were still alive.
Colin Therman didn’t belong to the club although one of his friends had asked him on several occasions if he’d like to come along but in each case Colin had demurred. It’s true that officially he was retired. He’d had a celebration about it, planned to take up a couple of new hobbies but he seemed unable to turn down contracts that kept coming up, or, just on his own initiative, solving small mysteries. By now his wife Linda was getting exasperated with him. One or two of the jobs had certainly had elements of danger about them. “Retired means retired!” she kept telling him, but it turned out he was very poor at saying no or resisting his own inclination to fix things. So in his mind he didn’t qualify to be a member of the group: not only was he not really retired, he wasn’t sure he was a gentleman either, and he certainly didn’t consider himself a fart, old or otherwise.
Of course, now that that nasty thing with 30000 nucleosides was infecting and sometimes killing creatures with several billion of them, meeting at the Club, or anywhere for that matter, was out. The Library was closed, the Community Centre and Vanier Centres also, shopping was awkward, strangers were a threat, you couldn’t get a slot for Walmart or Superstore curb-side pick-up to save your life and now the final straw was the closing of the Ironwood trail, supposedly because some yahoos didn’t practice social distancing. It was a bitter blow for everyone and Colin felt it deeply.
One of the traditions of this group of old guys was to celebrate each other’s birthday. Usually that meant that brandy or some other high ethanol content drink would be poured surreptitiously into the coffee and there’d usually be a cake from Solo with candles – just a few – no point rubbing it in. Cigars unfortunately were out. This year, March 29 was Gerald’s turn, only of course getting together anywhere was potentially life threatening, maybe even illegal, with the threat of asymptomatic carriers, community transmission and other terms not normally present in ordinary conversation.
Still, Gerald was turning 80 and they all agreed in their emails that it was important to recognize and celebrate the occasion. The problem was nobody knew what to do. How do you celebrate a birthday when getting together was hazardous to your health and would gain the disapproval of nosy neighbours?
Most of the members, although not all, had an aversion to Facebook and Twitter or any kind of technology of that sort, so they backed and forth via telephone, email and the occasional text until finally one of them came up with a plan. A couple of them didn’t think they could do it, claimed to lack the necessary skill, although that was considered by the others just to be an excuse. One member said he would just embarrass himself and was told in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t about him it was about Gerald.
Well of course the day came as days have a habit of doing, and it turned out that only three of them could make it. It need a fourth, one for each corner of Gerald’s house Colin was told in the last-minute phone call. Once again Colin’s inability to say no came to the rescue.
It had snowed the day, before much to everyone’s irritation. It was supposed to be spring but winter is a long-term resident in Manitoba and always has its bags packed ready to visit the province. Now the sun was out and the snow was already subliming and melting. As they approached Gerald’s house they took care to maintain a good separation. Each of them took up position at one corner of the house near a window so that all four quadrants were occupied. Then one of them called Gerald and told him to open his windows. When he had done so, on a signal they all began:
“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Gerald, Happy Birthday to you.”
It wasn’t a chorus that would have won acclaim at any music gathering, but it did the job and that was all that mattered. Each of them had brought a balloon and they now released them, watched them drift away in the breeze, waved at Gerald who beamed back at them from inside the house and then made their way separately and safely back home. Colin thought to himself, smiling in satisfaction at what they had done, that when things returned to normal, if there ever would be such a thing as normal again, that maybe, just maybe he’d drop by one Thursday morning and join in the conversation. Until then, well maybe he’d practice his singing.