Fleming Unit #109: Reunion Rekindled
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Posted by Erythnul on: 10:02 PM, 12/ 7/17
       I loved my mom and she loved me. It wasn't until years after she died that I was able to admit to myself that she had been an addict, a manic depressive who self medicated with alcohol and painkillers. I moved far away from home to go to college, then I graduated and moved even farther. I told myself I was going to seek some great adventure, but I knew that I was really running away. Now I was driving back to see my dad for the first time in three years, to empty out some old storage unit. My father was standing in front of unit 109 when I arrived. His face was grim, which matched the charcoal grey suit he was wearing. I tried to keep my face composed as well, but when our eyes locked for the first time, I was no longer an adult, I was a kid and I missed my dad. We embraced tightly, and then opened the door to the unit.

       When I left home for college it fell to my dad to clean out my childhood room, and I recognized many of my old belongings as I started opening up boxes: some GI joes, n64 cartridges, a basket of action figures. I pulled out my phone to see if any of it was actually worth anything. My dad slid past me to begin going through the boxes in the back of the unit.

       My dad took me on camping trips when I was young. He would surprise me by picking me up from school with all our gear in the truck and we’d go straight to the national park for the weekend. He loved to hike and we’d walk for hours through the woods along invisible paths that only he seemed to know.

       Of these trips, one in particular has stuck with me. That morning we had walked a few miles west of our camp and were on our way back when my dad threw out a hand to stop me. With one finger across his lips he pointed to a spot a few yards in front of us where a  rattlesnake was coiled in our path, almost completely obscured by fallen leaves. Without a word he unclipped a collapsible shovel from his backpack and handed it to me. It felt like someone had injected ice water into my spine, which slowly spread down my arms to the tips of my fingers. My head felt dizzy and I stood frozen in place. Seeing my hesitation, dad picked up a stone and tossed it at the snake, striking the ground just in front of it. It hissed, uncoiled, and began to slither away.

       I could have let it go, it wasn’t a threat to us anymore. I didn’t. I jumped towards the snake and brought the point of the shovel down just behind its head, continuing to strike it over and over until the head had come free from its body. The snake’s mouth was opening and closing slowly as its body twitched in the leaves. My breathing was heavy, and I leaned on the shovel for support. The cold feeling was draining from my body and I felt weak.

       “You did fine son” my dad said, placing a hand on my shoulder, “are you feeling alright?”.

       “Ya” I said. I nodded at him, and the dizziness increased, making me want to puke.

       My dad set his pack on the ground and pulled out three things: an empty mason jar, a can of salt, and a hunting knife. He positioned the blade over the end of the snake’s body, just in front of where the rattle met the skin, and cut. He placed the severed rattle in the jar and poured salt over it until it was submerged.

       “A trophy” he said, handing it to me.

       Our impromptu camping trips stopped after mom passed.

       After a few hours in the unit we called it quits for the day, and went to the local bar and grill for a late lunch. Neither of us said much to begin with, he asked about how my job was, and how my fiancée was doing. I asked him about how he’d been, if he’d seen any good movies or read any good books. The long pauses between questions grew shorter with each pint of alcohol we drank. Eventually we talked about mom.

       Rather than go straight to my room at the Best Western, I walked my dad home. It wasn’t far, and I felt like I would never get another chance to be this open with him. When we reached the front door of my old home, his face fell, and he looked directly into my eyes.

       “At the end, she wasn’t the same woman I married.” It hung in the air between us for a moment. We stared at one another. I blinked.

       “I’ll see you tomorrow dad.” I said finally.

       As I walked home I reached into my pocket for my phone, only to realize that it wasn’t there. I quickly checked my other pockets, before coming to the conclusion that I must have left it back at the unit. I jogged the rest of the way to the hotel where I’d parked my car, and then drove back to the units. I kept playing back my dad’s words in my head as I drove. The thought of spending another day in his company seemed less and less appealing, and I decided that I would try to finish emptying the unit tonight. It was four in the afternoon according to the digital clock on my dash, which meant I had two hours before the units closed.

       There were only a few boxes left and I was eager to be done with the job. I tried to restrain myself from looking through each box as I went, but the allure of nostalgia was too strong. Though most of the boxes were full of my old stuff, my dad had brought a few things here when my mom died, things he said he couldn’t bare having around in the house anymore. I found an album of wedding photos, some old cookbooks my mom had filled with handwritten notes, and some old soccer trophies with my mom’s name engraved on them.

       By the time the sun was setting there was only one box left. It was wide but flat, and when I went to pick it up I found it weighty for its size. I set it back down on the ground and looked inside. The box was divided up into 24 slots, the kind used to deliver jams or bottles of juice. 15 of the 24 slots were occupied by mason jars, each jar filled to the lid with salt.

       I drove out to the park where my dad and I used to camp and hiked in about a mile or so until I found the remains of an old fire pit. I laid the box in the center of the ring and emptied a bottle of lighter fluid over it. By then the sun was gone and I could see the edges of the moon through the trees. I struck a match and dropped it.

       The fire burned for a few hours at least. I sat and waited as ice water flowed from my spine to my fingertips. At random intervals I heard loud popping noises as the glass jars expanded and broke from the heat. When the flames had diminished I got up to scoop dirt over the remaining embers, and in their glow I saw something sparkle. I brushed away the ashes and picked up the shining object, placing it in the palm of my hand. It had been years, but I recognized it all the same, my mother’s wedding ring. I waited for some sort of feeling to wash over me, some kind of sadness or anger. It never came. I tossed the ring back into the pile of ashes and finished covering the embers.

       I stayed at the camp until morning, and then drove back to the units. I felt calm as I watched the complex manager give unit 109 a quick once-over, making sure I had left nothing unaccounted for. Seeming satisfied, he stepped out and informed me that I was good to go. I thanked him and rolled the metal door shut. A few miles outside of the city I received a text message from my dad, letting me know that he was at the unit and was waiting for me. I stopped at a gas station and replied: “The unit is empty, headed home. I love you.”

« Last Edit: 05:52 PM, 12/ 8/17 by Erythnul »

Posted by Rika84 on: 01:46 PM, 12/ 8/17
Ah, going to seek a great perhaps. But I thought that quote was about dying?

Hey, at what point did the narrator find their phone? It was lost and then by the end they have it again. Just a little thing.
Also, what were they drinking at the bar and grill? That's a good place to sneak in some extra juicy details. What did they drink? What did they eat?

I really love the overall feel of this story. REALLY love it. It's like the emotion is the story more than the plot. If I put on my critical glasses, I'm not really sure what's going on. The camping, the jars, burning the stuff... But like, the emotions work so well that I almost don't need to read too far into it.
They're just all these little looks into what life had been for this family, and what it isn't anymore. Good job!