Good Morning Ted and Jody:
Happy Thanksgiving. Also, give my best and Thanksgiving greeting to Bobby and anyone else you are harboring on your sojourn to Tennessee. Jody, does the fact you are at Bobby’s mean you get out of cooking?
A friend of mine writes short fiction pieces that have an O. Henry quality to them. He posts them on his blog from time to time. The other day one of his followers called his fiction “flash fiction.” I guess the genesis of that is the story is over in a flash? Or, they are too long for “Nano-fiction.” Regardless, he does a very good job of writing these short pieces. He has suggested that I try my hand. So I sat down yesterday afternoon when I was supposed to be cleaning an area of the kitchen to bottle wine and wrote one. I enclose it (Actually in email, “attach,” not enclose. Even then, it is simply appended to this missive. My but references do change from the pen and paper world to the digital world. This should give us some clue as to where words got their start before paper and pencil. At least I did not have to chisel this out.) below for your critical review or, I hope, enjoyment.
Warmest regards, Ed
PS the images are gratuitous and have nothing to do with anything in the letter or the flash fiction.
The Letter at Uncle Phil’s Funeral in 2016
(flash fiction by T. Edward Westen in 573 words)
Donna Meyerson remembered Uncle Phil Anderson well. He remained tall as Donna grew up, while all the others seemed to grow both shorter and stooped. But not Uncle Phil. He remained tall, straight and resembled a beacon in his white shirt, red tie, gold chain across his checkered vest and shoes so polished Donna could see her face in his black shoes, rounded but still her face, even when she grew to be more than five feet above those shoes. Donna squirmed a bit as the minister droned on with Uncle Phil’s eulogy “founding and funding the charity that provided a college education to abandoned children when he was only 25. . .”
Donna often went to the business meetings with Uncle Phil as there was always an impromptu stick ball game in the court yard of the museum after the meetings. Uncle Phil always chose her to be on his team and the other captain grumbled “Phil, you always get the only one here with two legs who is young enough to run the bases.” She laughed at the memory of Uncle Phil making a mock face that said “Who me?”
People around her turned when she laughed and one or two held up a finger to their lips to say” Hush, child, we don’t laugh at funerals.” That was the message even though Donna was a grandmother herself. She has best pay more attention so she would not laugh at the antics Uncle Phil always pulled to make her do exactly that, laugh. The minister was still speaking about Uncle Phil’s accomplishments. “After making millions in his motivational speaking engagements he put what he taught to good use in inventing the automatic breaking device used on all motor vehicles to this day. Of course, that made him more millions . . .” Yes, Uncle Phil made millions. He also had a way with people that put them instantly at ease. Donna remembered the homeless man who Uncle Phil brought home for Thanksgiving Dinner when she was 12. That man came back five years later, dressed to the nines, and invited the whole family to a Thanksgiving Dinner in Hawaii—a two week “all expenses paid” vacation for six. After that first Thanksgiving Dinner, Uncle Phil had staked the man to $100; the man bought a bicycle, fixed it up, sold it and did it again and again and made more money, as the man put it, than someone named Carter had little pills. The minister was ending. You could tell ministers were nearly done when they said “Now, let us bow our heads in prayer. . .”
Donna unfolded the piece of paper she had brought from Uncle Phil’s desk. She found it just this morning in a bottom drawer in a file folder all to itself. She meant to give it to the minister before the service but hadn’t. While the minister lead the mourners in prayer Donna looked down and read it for the fifth or sixth time trying to draw some meaning from it.
August 5, 1945
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Anderson,
I have reviewed the results of the testing done on you son, Phillip Bartholomew Anderson, aged 4. I regrettably must inform you that your son is autistic and will never lead a normal life. I would advise you to put him in a home for those with his affliction.
Your most humble servant,
T.G. Gasman, M.D.