Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Present - #FridayFlash

David walked inside the large room, its warmth welcomed by others but not by him. He preferred the cold snowy weather outside. It matched his mood.

Grabbing a plate of food, David sat alone in the far corner, sneering at the festive little group singing carols around the Christmas tree. What were they so happy about? Homeless beggars, the lot of them. He shoveled mashed potatoes into his mouth and tried to block out the noise.

The area filled quickly, but David stared down anyone who approached his table. He enjoyed his solitude and didn’t want anyone disturbing it.

A family walked in, laden with gifts. Do-gooders come to rescue the downtrodden, no doubt. David didn’t need rescuing. He liked his life just fine. It suited him well since the accident that took his family. He closed his eyes to block out the images.


Startled by the sound, David’s eyes flew open.

“Tommy?” No, of course it wasn’t Tommy.

“No, sir. I’m Matthew, but you can call me Matt. That’s what my friends call me.”

“I’m not your friend, boy.”

His voice gruff with unaccustomed emotion, David stuffed a forkful of food into his mouth to end the conversation.

The kid stood there for a moment longer, then walked back to his parents. David watched him go through half-closed lids. He looked to be about seven, the same age that Tommy had been before…

He applied himself to his food, angry that he’d been reliving ancient memories. Those belonged to that other David, the one who hadn’t rolled the car and killed his wife and child.

Matthew came back again, this time carrying a box.

“This is for you, sir.”

The child tried to hand it to him, but David pushed the present away. A single tear slid down the boy’s cheek.

“I want to give this to you. If my name was Tommy, would you take it?”

David found his hands trembling as he tried to set his fork down.

“Why are you crying, mister?”

He blinked and his vision blurred. David’s fingertips explored his face and found wet cheeks, something he hadn’t experienced in five years, not since…

“Would you open the box for me…Matt?”

“Okay, but I know what it is. I picked it out of the stack just for you ‘cuz you don’t have one.”

Matt pulled a thick woolen scarf out of the box and wrapped it around David’s neck.

“Now you’ll be warm when you’re outside. I have to go now but Merry Christmas, sir.”

David surprised himself by giving the boy a gentle hug.

“Thank you, Matt. I think you just gave me the best present I’ve ever had.”

©2009 Laura Eno