Flash Fiction Contest Winner #20 – “Absent Jack”

Please note: Flash fiction stories are submitted by members of our Discord server. Many contain adult themes and may be objectionable to some readers.

“Absent Jack”

The crack of a beer opening broke the silence. Jack looked at the carnage surrounding the letter on the coffee table. Last week’s Hungry Man sat half eaten beside two empty beer cans. There was a broken popsicle stick wedged into a crack in the wood. Some napkins wearing yesterday’s ravioli stains. A crumpled note.
     I should get that stick out of there.
     Jack let this thought slip out of his mind as he moved the pile of clothes on his couch. He needed an extra vantage point to contemplate this letter. The letter was under the door when he woke this morning. It couldn’t possibly be real. The name in the envelope’s corner is one he had put out of his mind eight years ago or more. The yellow tinge of the envelope showed that she sent it during that mess of a period in his life.
     He rubbed at his nose to clear the remembered scent of her from his nostrils. He washed the lingering taste of her lips down with a swig of beer. The lovely tingle of the hops in this IPA mingled there with her taste. It swirled in his mind along with the rush of her laughter in his ear. He bit his lip to hide the clawing he felt in his throat. The one vying to get out through his tear ducts. He studied the edge of the table again, to delay the flow of his long held in flood. This letter shouldn’t be here. Not one from her. Not so long after.
     The corner he studied bore a mark left there by another woman in his life. It was slightly darker than the rest of the mahogany. Was she the one that started this fight, or did he? Who left the stain there? He drowned this memory with the rest of the IPA. When he tossed the empty can onto the table, it knocked against the stuck popsicle stick like a basketball hitting a backstop. It twisted and twirled, tossed and tumbled and landed straight up in a shoe.
     Well, huh.
     His attention returned to the letter. To the scrawling script that was her name. A memory floated into the numb of his mind. She leaned over the counter, a long flowing sundress blowing in the breeze coming from the open patio door. The sun shone through the fabric and he could see the shape of her supple calf. She giggled at what she wrote and passed him the note and said it was his turn. That giggle of hers.
     The sudden ache in his chest, the wrenching of his heart, brought the clawing demon back into his throat. The muscles there fought to contain him. Jack’s hand darted into the pile of clothes and withdrew a bottle of liquid gold before the demon got free. He flung the cap off with a sharp thwack of his thumb. The demon in his throat went away as the burning liquid filled the surrounding space.
     The sweet warmth filled his chest and he felt her caress between his breasts. In that heartbeat of a moment the demon broke loose. Her touch set him free. Each breath of his quickened inhales sent chills running toward his eyes. Spasms spilled out along his airway. The pain glistened down his cheeks. Fell down around his sobs and stained his shirt.
     “I’m so sorry, Eliza. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry.”
     He choked down the rest of his gold.
     “Forgive me.”