Perched on the armrest of the oversized couch, she looked out the window at the blooming Bird of Paradise and waited expectantly to hear a car pull into the driveway.
Hearing nothing for several minutes, she grew impatient and grabbed her sketch pad from her carry-on luggage bag. The new pencils that her father had given her the day before were sharp and simply begging to be used.
The foliage outside the window proved to be no challenge, so she began doodling a frame around the edge of the page. As she finished it, she heard a key open the front door lock.
Throwing her sketchpad onto the floor, she flew across the room and peered out from behind the edge of the archway.
He entered the hall, and began a nearly catatonic process of removing his shoes and emptying his pockets onto the bar in the hall.
Without making eye contact, he said softly, “Hey, Kid. How ya doin’?”
The family dogs had finally discovered that he was home, so he spent a minute or two greeting each of them, rubbing their ears and backs and cooing soft greetings to them.
Still crouched down from greeting the dogs, he turned in her direction and made eye contact. “How ya doin’?” he repeated.
“You sleep alright? The flight was OK?”
He was dressed in a dark blue shirt and pants. The badge on his uniform glinted in the sunlight from the windows. At that moment, he could have been wearing a red cape with an “S” on it, and she wouldn’t have been surprised.
But he didn’t stand up and put his hands on his hips in a typical superhero pose. He stayed crouched down. He regarded her quietly. He waited.
She heard a loud crack, and realized that it was her own jaw closing after gaping open for several minutes.
He smiled, and in one instant she discovered what her mother had fallen in love with. His eyes were so kind. The smile behind that moustache was so sincere.
Still unable to speak, she nodded.
He glanced at the couch across the room, where she had folded her sheets and pajamas under her pillow.
“You’ve been up for a little while, huh?”
She nodded again.
“Well, I guess that’s to be expected, what with the time zones and all. Hmmm.”
He motioned to a box on the bar.
“I brought home some donuts. The dogs and I are going to go sit on the back patio. You want to come out there with us?”
She nodded and began to wonder if he thought she was unable to speak. She’d never been at a loss for words before.
He stood up slowly – perhaps to not startle her but more likely because he was exhausted after working all night – and picked up the box of donuts.
“You coming?” he asked. The dogs barked their affirmation, even though he’d extended the invite to the girl.
She followed him to the back patio.
The sun bouncing off the white concrete and pool water was blinding, even from under the covered porch.
He put the box of donuts on the table and motioned for her to help herself. He sat down on the porch swing to let the dogs greet him again. Eventually they ran off to explore the other side of the yard.
“What a night!” he moaned, rubbing his face with his hands. “Two brush fires, one house fire, three vehicle collisions, and one medical emergency.”
“Did you save everybody?” she asked, finally having found her voice.
“No,” he said. “We didn’t.”
After a pause, he added, “I drive the truck. I’m not an EMT.”
“Who died last night?” she asked.
“Well…” and he pinched his nose to wipe the tears away. “A man… someone’s husband. Someone’s brother. Someone’s son.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose again, harder and longer.
They sat there for a long time in silence.
“I’m so sorry,” she murmured.
“Yeah, me too.” He gave a weak smile, but his eyes were grateful.
The dogs returned for more attention from him. His mood brightened.
“So, you like to draw?”
She nodded nervously.
“Can I see what you drew?”
She ran to retrieve the sketchpad from the living room floor, and shyly placed it in his hands.
She waited for the usual harsh critique that she was accustomed to hearing.
But it didn’t come.
His face changed to one of utter disbelief.
“YOU drew this? You didn’t trace it or something?”
“You can have it.. if you want..”
He looked up, gratefully.
“I would love to have it. Would you autograph it for me?”
“Why?” she asked.
“I want to remember this morning forever.”
“Me too…” she murmured.
This blog is titled “Based on a True Story” for a reason.
Not everything in this story is true.
I have been waiting my whole life to share my stories with you.
Like all writers, I employ a little creative license here and there.
As I learn a bit more about how to craft my stories, I’d like to ask you — the reader – to identify which fictional element was added for “flavoring” for this first installment.
Which story element did I add or alter to enhance the story?
- The sunny patio. It was overcast and smoggy, and the backyard was overgrown with weeds.
- The presence of dogs. They had cats and goldfish.
- The drawing. The kid couldn’t draw to save her soul.
- The man’s job. He was a trash collector, not a firefighter.
Please cast your vote in the comment section!
Hint: If you don’t see a place to vote or comment, scroll ALLLLL the way down to the bottom of this page, past other people’s comments. There it is!
Thank you for reading!