Here’s the next episode in the connected flash fiction project. Once I reach what I can reasonably call a conclusion to this series, I plan to use the episodes as a starting point for a longer story or maybe even a novella. What do you think?
By Laura McHale Holland
He walks away, one hand in a side pocket of his crisp new jeans, the other clutching a cheap vinyl bag. His toes, tucked into white crew socks, rub the sides of sneakers a half size too small. He could have waited five or ten minutes for the guard to fetch the right size, but he could already see the sunshine through the window of the heavy metal door, the road winding in the distance, an oak tree standing majestically at the corner.
He breaks into a trot, brick walls, barbed wire, guard towers at his back. After only five years in prison for kidnapping a girl he’d known vaguely in high school, along with her baby daughter, he is a free man. And his victim, Carly, is the reason he is now gulping fresh air and feeling the winds of new possibilities on his face.
He was a drug-addled youth at the time of his crime, and his public defender disdained him as much as he loathed himself. He had no defense. But then Carly enlisted competent lawyers to work on an appeal. “You were hired to kill me and my baby, and you didn’t go through with it. I will always appreciate that. And I think there must have been extenuating circumstances,” she wrote him when she hired his legal team.
A bus pulls up just as he reaches the oak. He pats the tough bark of the trunk, then boards. He smiles at the sound of change clinking in the fare box as he shuffles down the aisle. He takes a window seat near the back, opens the window and leans his head back as the bus chugs forward. He relishes the views: rolling hills, acres of crops, farm houses, truck, small towns, children racing on bikes, couples tending flower beds, dogs lazing on porches.
Hours later, the bus is just outside his hometown. He pulls two scraps of paper from the pocket of his jeans, unfolds them, studies them. One contains Carly’s address; she has a good job waiting for him. The other holds the phone number of a former cellmate; he has a good job waiting for him, too. He folks one note and puts it back in his pocket. He crumples the other, throws it on the floor of the bus and waits for the driver to call out his stop.
All of the episodes in this series in the order in which they were posted follow: