Flash Fiction Contest Winner #9 – “Uncle Sid”

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

“Uncle Sid”

When I was 21 I postponed my final year of college, along with a small group of my fellow students, for the sole purpose of traveling the country and participating in Occupy Wall Street protests. We had a blast, of course. Young and carefree and secure in the knowledge that our tuitions were paid and our well to do families were saving our childhood rooms for us, we hitchhiked and pan handled from the Pacific all the way to the Atlantic, sleeping on sidewalks and in parks, giving each other tattoos and inventing ridiculous hair-dos. Everywhere we went, we felt justified when we would see the droves of other protestors flocking in from all directions to join us.
     When the protests wound down I returned home, and began preparing for my final year of college. Not all of my friends joined me. Some had become addicted to drugs, and they kept living the way we had that summer, but the joy had left the party. Others had become more zealous than ever about the cause, and continued to pursue it via a number of different avenues. Jeff was using the rest of his college funds to set up some business in the South West that would educate people about self-sustaining off-grid living. Janie was making okay money writing a travel blog with a heavy handed political slant.
     It was the second week after I graduated with honors that I heard about Marti. She had traveled to her home town in Mexico for a protest, and there she had been sexually assaulted and murdered with box cutters by a group of men who had seen her waiting to hop out on a freight train alone.
     I want to say that I grieved for Marti, but that’s not the truth. In reality the friends I left behind, and the cause we had shared, had become distant to me. What I lost, when Marti died, was a sense of the purity of a cherished memory. My ideal, TV show fantasy, wild oats sewing, rebel without a cause adventures, now marred by something nastier than the dictates of the corresponding aesthetic.
     That’s how I wound up backpacking Europe the same year. A fashionable pursuit. Hipsterish even. And it was a means of retaking my memories, in a way that I had full control over. I traveled all over the Southernmost countries and even forayed into some of the Eastern ones—-which made me feel brave—all the while meticulously avoiding any that primarily spoke English, just to maintain that exotic feel. In each new place, I drank deeply, staying drunk on my still favorable stash of American currency.
     In Greece I walked along a gravelly beach near my hostel. The sea breeze was cool, and gulls made lazy circles above the breakers. I wandered past an old white-washed boat house, and along a faint desire path up into the cliffs above the beach, speculating how much traffic it would take to keep any such trail from washing away. It was a place of idyllic beauty and peace, and it produced a hypnotic balming effect on my buzzed mind. I could make a life of this.
     I stopped short of rounding the corner of the cliff face, hearing a commotion ahead. There was a group of men shouting in Greek, laughing and swinging the poles they used to pull up their lobster traps. In the center of the huddle was a portly man, with a tattered and faded Aeropostale  t-shirt, and a farmer’s tan. He danced about, with a crazed grin on his face, while they struck bloody welts across his face, arms, and his patchily shaven head. After a few moments of that the fishermen grew bored and walked away with a few derisive comments, and one of them stopped and tossed a few coins into the man’s hat.
     He plopped down in the brush, sorted the coins, and chugged liquor from a plastic bottle. I know I was staring, but not how long it took before he looked up at me and held out his hat. “Hey, buddy. Spare some change? Uncle Sid’s thirsty.” My mind stuck on his words for so long that he waved me off in disgust and went back to his bottle. I fled immediately, and I was on a plane back to Florida before the source of my horror became clear to me. It was his accent. He didn’t have one.
     He was just like me.